Youth violence is a global public health problem. It includes a range of acts from bullying and physical fighting, to more severe sexual and physical assault to homicide. Worldwide some 200 000 homicides occur among youth 10–29 years of age each year, which is 42% of the total number of homicides globally each year.
Homicide is the fourth leading cause of death in people aged 10-29 years, and 84% of these homicides involve male victims. And for each young person killed, many more sustain injuries requiring hospital treatment. Making it the fourth leading cause of death for people in this age group.In fact, in one study (2020), from 3–24% of women report that their first sexual experience was forced. But we will talk about this later in another article. It’s important to highlight when it is not fatal, youth violence has a serious, often lifelong, impact on a person's physical, psychological and social functioning (read next article for more information).
CAUSES OF YOUTH VIOLENCE
The American Psychological Association (APA) defines youth violence as an extreme form of aggression with the goal of physical harm, injury, or death. Examples of youth violence also include date rape, homicides, and gang violence. So, youth violence can take different forms. Examples include fighting, harassment, threats with weapons, and gang-related violence. On any given day, we will find a new story about youth violence. Whether it is street violence, bullying, or a school shooting and so on. In fact, firearm attacks end more often in fatal injuries than assaults that involve fists, feet, knives, and blunt objects.
Research indicates that violence in the media also influences teens and can cause them to act aggressively. Although it is difficult to determine whether or not violence in media leads directly to youth violence, studies have shown that playing violent video games increases aggressive thoughts and behaviors.
For parents and educators of teens, it is important to recognize that these types of violent behaviors are prevalent. Consequently, parents and educators need to take an active part in preventing youth violence in the lives of teens. To do this, it's important to understand what causes violence among teens.
EARLY LIFE OPPORTUNITIES FOR YOUTH VIOLENCE PREVENTION
Many of the key risk factors for involvement in youth violence stem from the family and community environments in which young people grow up. Children who are abused or who live in dysfunctional households - for example where they witness domestic violence, parental substance use or criminal behaviour - have increased risks of later involvement with youth violence.
Other risk factors in early life include having a teenage mother, coming from a single parent family, having poor parental relationships, and low educational achievement.The impacts of children's early life experiences on their risks of violence mean that early life interventions have an essential role to play in preventing youth violence. Such interventions work with children and their families from the very earliest stages of life, fostering healthy brain development, the formation of social and emotional skills and strong family and community support.
The length and severity of youth involvement in violence can vary considerably. For many, fighting and other forms of delinquent behaviour can be a temporary phase of youth that is outgrown as individuals move into adulthood. For others, however, aggression and conduct disorder can emerge early in childhood, develop into more serious forms of offending and violence during adolescence, and continue into adulthood.
On the other hand, youths who live in areas with high levels of deprivation and crime, or who have few educational and employment opportunities may see little potential for their future and consider violence and crime as the only options for achieving status, resources and wealth. Where such communities have endemic violence, aggressive behaviour can be seen as both a social norm and a necessary response for self-protection.
Of course, the presence of gangs, weapons and drug markets is an important risk for youth violence. Youth violence can also thrive in societies with low levels of social cohesion, wide social inequalities, growing youth populations, high unemployment, weak criminal justice systems and where social and gender norms are tolerant of violent behaviour.
Youth homicide and non-fatal violence not only contribute greatly to the global burden of premature death, injury and disability, but also have a serious, often lifelong, impact on a person's psychological and social functioning. This can affect victims' families, friends and communities. Youth violence increases the costs of health, welfare and criminal justice services; reduces productivity; decreases the value of property.