Violence is one of the major causes of mortality and morbidity among youth. With slightly more than 1 in 3 high school students reported to be involved in a physical fight, this is a major social issue. For the full statistics, see the reference at the end of this story.
Can we as parents influence our kids with respect to use of violence?
The good news is that if our kids see us as disapproving of the use of violence to solve interpersonal problems then they were more likely not to engage in violent behavior.
Interestingly, almost 40% of the parents indicated that they would tell their child it is okay to hit if another person pushes him or her. Perhaps for some parents, advising their child to fight back when provoked is the best way they think their child will be safe.
Using corporal punishment as a disciplining method by parents increased the risk of youth violence as reported in several studies. Seeing parents using corporal punishment may suggest to young people that the use of physical force in dealing with a problem is normal.
Parents should clearly communicate to their children how to resolve conflicts without resorting to violence and to model these skills themselves by avoiding the use of physical punishment.
Risk Factors and protective factors
In another study (2), it was found that among boys who had all the specific risk factors and none of the three protective factors, 71% were predicted to be involved in violent behavior at the time of the second interview. For boys who had none of the risk factors and all three protective factors, only 18% were predicted to be involved in violent behavior.
Likewise, for girls who had all the risk factors and none of the three protective factors, 61% were predicted to be involved in violent behavior at the time of the second interview. Among girls who had none of the risk factors and all three protective factors, only 7% were predicted to be involved in violent behavior.
In summary to reduce youth violence, we need to
- Strengthen families
- Enhance positive relationships with adults
- Encourage a sense of connection with school
- Improve academic performance.
- Weapon carrying
- Substance use
- School problems
- Emotional distress
Finally, and most importantly, we know that witnessing or experiencing violence and being exposed to suicide attempts (and completions) of friends and family members endanger the lives and well-being of our youth.