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What You Need To Know About Youth Violence Prevention

NCJ Number
Irene Saunders Goldstein
Date Published
August 2002
44 pages
Based on the report, "Youth Violence: A Report of the Surgeon General," released in January 2001, as well as other selected research-informed sources, this booklet summarizes the latest knowledge on youth violence and how to prevent it.
The booklet identifies both risk factors that may lead to violent behavior and protective factors that can prevent violent behavior and promote healthy childhood development. The strongest early risk factors for the commission of violence during the ages of 15-18 are involvement in serious, but not necessarily violent, criminal acts and substance abuse. Early moderate risk factors are being male, engaging in physical aggression, having low family socioeconomic status or poverty, and antisocial (violent or criminal) parents. Additional early risk factors that have a limited role in violent behavior include psychological conditions, poor parent-child relations, weak social ties, poor school performance, abusive or neglectful parents, and antisocial peers. The strongest late risk factors for committing violence between the ages of 15 and 18 are weak ties to conventional peers, ties to antisocial or delinquent peers, gang membership, and involvement in other criminal acts. Only two factors have been found to moderate the risk of violence: an intolerant attitude toward deviance, including violence, and commitment to school. Both effects are small. The Surgeon General describes three categories of violence-prevention interventions: primary prevention, which is designed for general populations of youth; secondary prevention, which reduces the risk of violence among youth who manifest one or more risk factors for violence; and tertiary prevention, which is designed to prevent recidivism by youth who have already engaged in violent behavior. Some effective primary prevention strategies mentioned in this booklet are skills training; behavior monitoring and reinforcement; behavioral techniques for classroom management; building school capacity to plan, implement, and sustain positive changes; continuous progress programs for student achievement; cooperative learning; and positive youth development programs. Effective secondary prevention measures include parent training, home visitation, compensatory education to improve academic performance, moral reasoning, social problem solving, and thinking skills. Effective tertiary prevention strategies include multimodal intervention, behavioral interventions, skills training, marital and family therapy, and comprehensive social services. This booklet also lists ineffective prevention strategies. Suggestions are offered for what parents can do to foster resilience and healthy development in their children. 21 references and appended descriptions of model and promising programs to prevent youth violence