Virginia Commonwealth University

Youth Violence school Resources

Children need to feel safe.

However, the US is the most violent country in the industrialized world, having the highest numbers of homicides, rapes, and assaults. The program of violence is not restricted to any one group or area. All children today are affected the violence that spreads throughout the nation, the Commonwealth, our communities, and our homes. Violence threatens the healthy development of children.

Youth violence takes many forms. It ranges from aggressive verbal assaults to physical harm to death.

The victim or the perpetrator (or both) may be a young person. Outcomes, severity, and causal factors may differ. Not all children respond to difficult situations in the same way. Figuring prominently in youth violence are the perpetrator's age and developmental level, temperament, community environment, family dynamics, and social and learning experiences. There is no single reason or cause for violent behavior.

Some children experience violence more directly that others, but every child feels the effects of violence. Exposure ranges from encountering strong images and messages in the media to being a direct witness, victim, or perpetrator.

Although violence and its symbols are pervasive in our culture, violence is not inevitable. It is a learned behavior in response to stress. We all have some potential for violent behavior; we have observed others using violence and know how to do it.

Young people who commit violent offenses often have many simultaneously – existing problems in their lives. The presence of these problems – such as peer pressure, need for attention, feelings of low self worth or of isolation, early childhood abuse or neglect, witnessing violence (at home, in the community, or in the media), and easy access to weapons – does not cause violence to occur; it just increases the likelihood that violence will result.

At an early age, children often learn aggression is an effective way to deal with conflict. According to research, it is possible to predict from an eight-year-old's aggressive behavior in school how aggressive that child will be in adolescence and adulthood – including whether he or she will exhibit criminal and antisocial behavior.

  • Center for School Community Collaboration
  • School of Education @ Virginia Commonwealth University
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