Facts for Teens: Youth Violence

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1 P.O. Box 6003 Rockville, MD Facts for Teens: Youth Violence Introduction Many teenagers are concerned about youth violence, and with good reason. Each year, far too many teens commit acts of violence, and their victims are most often other teenagers. Although media coverage tends to focus on mass shootings like the one in Littleton, Colorado, youth violence actually includes a range of activities, including bullying, threatening remarks, physical fights, assaults with or without weapons, gang violence, and suicide. Although youth violence has always been a problem in the United States, the number of deaths and serious injuries increased dramatically during the late 1980's and early 1990's, as more and more teens began to carry guns and other weapons. Since then, however, the tide has begun to turn. In recent years, fewer teens are carrying weapons, teen murder arrests have dropped by almost 60%, and the arrest rate for violent crimes is down 36% from its peak in It would be misleading, however, to conclude that youth violence is no longer a problem. Too many youth continue to harm others About 1 in 9 murders were committed by youth under 18 in On average, about 5 youths are arrested for murder in this country each day (a total of 1,176 in 1999). 1 Youth under 18 accounted for about 1 in 6 violent crime arrests in One national survey found that for every teen arrested, at least 10 were engaged in violence that could have seriously injured or killed another person. 3 A review of surveys found that between 30-40% of male teens and 16-32% of female teens say they have committed a serious violent offense by the age of Too many youth continue to harm themselves Suicide is the third leading cause of death among teenagers -- over 1,500 teens kill themselves each year. 5 In 1998, there were 1,520 suicides among year olds. 5 About 1 in 12 high-school students say they have made a suicide attempt in the past year. 6 More than 3 in 5 youth suicides involve firearms. 5

2 Facts for Teens: Youth Violence, National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center, Page 2 Too many youth continue to carry weapons Almost 1 in 20 high-school students say they have carried a gun in the past month. 6 More than 1 in 6 high-school students say they have carried a gun, knife or club in the past month. 6 Almost 1 in 4 teens report having easy access to guns at home. 6 Too many youth become victims On average, 7 youths are murdered in this country each day. In 1998, there were 2,570 homicides among youth aged Murder is the second leading cause of death for this age group. 5 1 in 5 victims of serious violent crime are between the ages of 12 and 17. Youth aged are three times as likely as adults to be victims of simple assault and twice as likely to be victims of serious violent crimes. 8 About 1 in 20 high-school seniors say they have been injured with a weapon in the past year, and almost 1 in 7 say someone has injured them on purpose without a weapon. 9 More than 1 in 3 high-school students say they have been in a physical fight in the past year, and about 1 in 9 of those students required medical attention for their injuries. 6 (See Physical Fighting Fact Sheet) More than 1 in 6 sixth to tenth graders say they are bullied sometimes, and more than 1 in 12 say they are bullied once a week or more. 10 (See Bullying Fact Sheet). School violence continues to be an ongoing public concern Although school shootings get a lot of media coverage, schools nationwide are relatively safe. Less than 1% of all violent deaths of school-aged children and teens occur in or around school grounds or on the way to and from school. 11 In the school year, a total of 34 children and teens were murdered in or around school grounds or on the way to and from school. 11 In 1998, youth ages were twice as likely to become victims of serious violent crimes when they were away from school. 12 This is not to say that violence in schools is not a problem, however. In a 1999 national survey of high school students 6 : Almost 1 in 14 students (and more than 1 in 10 male students) said they had carried a weapon to school in the past month; More than 1 in 13 students said they had been threatened or injured with a weapon such as a gun, knife, or club on school property in the past year;

3 Facts for Teens: Youth Violence, National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center, Page 3 More than 1 in 7 said they had been in a physical fight on school property in the past year; and About 1 in 20 said they had missed at least one day of school in the last month because they felt unsafe at school or when traveling to or from school. (See School Violence Fact Sheet) Which teens are at greater risk for engaging in serious violent behavior? 13 Teens that commit acts of serious violence are often involved in other types of criminal behavior and live a lifestyle that involves a number of risky behaviors, including using drugs, carrying weapons, driving recklessly, and having unsafe sex. While some violent teens begin to get in trouble as children, most don't become involved in a violent lifestyle until their teenage years. Between 20 and 45% of boys who commit serious violent crimes by the age of 16 or 17 were violent as children, while 45 to 69% of violent girls were violent in childhood. The small group of teens that were engaged in serious violence before the age of 13 generally commit more crimes, and more serious crimes, than those teens that start later. They are also more likely to continue to engage in violence into adulthood. In contrast, only about 20% of all seriously violent teens continue to commit violent acts as adults. Researchers have identified some factors that increase children and teens' risk for becoming involved in serious violence during the teenage years. For children under 13, the most important factors include: early involvement in serious criminal behavior, early substance use, being male, a history of physical aggression toward others, low parent education levels or poverty, and parent involvement in illegal activities. Once a child becomes a teenager, different factors predict involvement in serious violence. Friends and peers are much more important for teens, and friendships with antisocial or delinquent peers, membership in a gang, and involvement in other criminal activity are the most important predictors of serious violence for teenagers. Typically, the more of these risk factors that are present, the greater a child or teen's likelihood of becoming involved in serious violence. It is important to remember, however, that some children or teens may have a number of these risk factors yet never become violent, while other children or teens with no risk factors will engage in violent activities. Researchers have begun to identify protective factors, such as a commitment to school and a negative attitude toward criminal behavior, that may shield children and teens, even in the presence of a number of risk factors. Does anything work to prevent teen violence? In recent years, researchers have carefully evaluated the effectiveness of a number of violence prevention programs and strategies. The good news is that a number of programs have been proven to be effective at preventing violence, even with teens that are already violent or in trouble with the law. Unfortunately, many widely used approaches to youth violence have been shown to be ineffective - and a few even appear to harm teens that participate. For example, a number of programs that teens throughout the nation are involved in, such as peer counseling and peer mediation programs, have been shown to be ineffective in reducing violence. 13

4 Facts for Teens: Youth Violence, National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center, Page 4 Before developing or supporting a program to reduce youth violence, it is important to determine whether there is evidence for its effectiveness. A number of the resources listed later can point you to effective programs. Some of the types of programs that have been shown to make a difference include after-school programs like Boys and Girls Clubs, and mentoring programs like Big Brothers/Big Sisters. What You Can Do Make a commitment not to contribute to violence in any way. Do not bully, tease, or spread negative gossip about others. Respect others and value differences. Try to broaden your social circle to include others who are different from you. Get involved in your school and community. Volunteer with a community group, play sports, write a play or poem, play a musical instrument, or join a club or after-school program. Avoid alcohol and drugs. Stay away from alcohol and drugs as well as people who use them. There is a strong link between the use of alcohol and drugs and violence. Learn about ways to resolve arguments and fights without violence, and encourage your friends to do the same. Many schools, churches, and after-school programs offer training in conflict resolution skills. Do not carry a gun or other weapons. Carrying a gun will not make you safer. Guns often escalate conflicts and increase the chances that you will be seriously harmed. If someone is threatening you and you feel that you are in serious danger, do not take matters into your own hands. Find an adult you can trust and discuss your fears, or contact school administrators or the police. Take precautions for your safety, such as avoiding being alone and staying with a group of friends if possible. If you know someone is planning to harm someone else - report him or her. Most of us have learned from an early age that it is wrong to tattle, but in some instances it is the most courageous thing you can do. Tell a trusted adult, such as a teacher, guidance counselor, principal or parent. If you are afraid and believe that telling will put you in danger or lead to retaliation, find a way to anonymously contact the authorities. Take the initiative to make your school or community safer. Join an existing group that is promoting non-violence in your school or community, or launch your own effort. Several of the online resources listed at the end of this document can help you get started. For example, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention's National Youth Network (www.usdoj.gov/kidspage/getinvolved) web site can connect you with national organizations and provide you with information and resources to take action in your community. Learn about effective programs and what other teens are doing around the nation. Find out how to plan and start a program, run a meeting, develop publications, and work with the news media. Helpful Links A Teenager's Guide to...fitting in, Getting involved, Finding yourself Family and Youth Services Bureau, Department of Health and Human Services

5 Facts for Teens: Youth Violence, National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center, Page 5 When times get tough, it's important to know there are people you can count on. The ideas in this booklet can help you learn to deal with tough times and enjoy the good times by finding the people and places that are right for you. You might find these ideas useful in your everyday life. Or read them to see if they might be helpful to a friend. America's Teens General Services Administration This site provides a gateway to Federal and other publicly supported web sites for teens. It includes links to information about teen safety and health issues, substance abuse, and about community service/volunteering opportunities for teens. The National Youth Network U.S. Department of Justice The U.S. Department of Justice believes YOU can be part of the solution, involve yourself in the process of sharing information with other teenagers across the country and take responsibility for improving your own neighborhoods. The National Youth Network provides young people with information and resources and provides a unique opportunity for you to share perspectives with other teenagers on issues related to delinquency and violence prevention. Girl Power! And Violence Prevention Department of Health and Human Services The Girl Power! Site includes information for girls on how to take a stand against violence in their schools and communities. Youth Violence: A Report of the Surgeon General Department of Health and Human Services This 2001 report summarizes the newest research on youth violence, discussing the extent of the problem, its causes, and what we know about effective ways to prevent youth violence. Juvenile Justice Facts & Figures Office of Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention (01/2001) This site links you to the latest facts and figures on juvenile justice, delinquency prevention, and youth violence and victimization. Virtual Library Reading Room ERIC Clearinghouse on Counseling and Student Services, Department of Education This site connects you with virtual libraries of articles on key youth violence topics. Libraries include: Depression and Suicide Virtual Library

6 Facts for Teens: Youth Violence, National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center, Page 6 School Violence Virtual Library Conflict Resolution Virtual Library Bullying in Schools Virtual Library Youth Gangs Virtual Library Division of Violence Prevention National Center for Injury Prevention and Control Centers for Disease Control and Prevention This web site contains a number of fact sheets and publications on youth violence and suicide, with links to other valuable resources. It also includes the truth and myths about youth violence, kids' stories, things you can do to avoid violence, and a reading list for teens. Indicators of School Crime and Safety, U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice A joint effort by the Bureau of Justice Statistics and National Center for Education Statistics, the report provides the most current detailed statistical information to inform the nation on the nature of crime in schools. Division of Adolescent and School Health Centers for Disease Control and Prevention This site includes information about federal efforts to halt school violence and findings from the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, a national survey of high-school students. The survey asks teens about behaviors that put their health at risk, including physical fighting, weapon-carrying, dating violence, school violence, and suicidal thoughts and attempts. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) A component of the National Institutes of Health, NIMH works to diminish the burden of mental illness through research by better understanding, developing treatment, and eventually, by preventing mental illness. Available at its Web site are a number of fact sheets and other information, including: In Harm's Way: Suicide in America Frequently Asked Questions About Suicide

7 Facts for Teens: Youth Violence, National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center, Page 7 Helping Children and Adolescents Cope with Violence and Disasters References 1. Homicide statistics calculated from data provided in: Fox, J. A. & Zawitz, M. W. (2001). Homicide Trends in the United States. Bureau of Justice Statistics. 2. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.(2000). Juvenile Arrests, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2001). Youth Violence: A Report of the Surgeon General. Comparison of data from the Monitoring the Future Study from the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research and data from the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting program. 4. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2001). Youth Violence: A Report of the Surgeon General. Analysis of data from the National Youth Survey , Rochester Youth Development Study, , Denver Youth Study, , and Pittsburgh Youth Study, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. WISQARS (Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System) 6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance --- United States, 1999, 7. Blum, R. W. & Rinehart, P. M. Reducing the Risk: Connections that Make a Difference in the Lives of Youth. Division of General Pediatrics and Adolescent Health, University of Minnesota, Box 721, 420 Delaware St., S.E., Minneapolis, MN Snyder, H. & Sickmund, M. (1999). Juvenile Offenders and Victims: 1999 National Report, Washington, D.C.: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. 9. Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan. Monitoring the Future Study, As cited in Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics 1999, page Nansel, T.R., Overpeck, M., Pilla, R.S., Ruan, W.J., Simons-Morton, B., & Scheidt, P. (2001). Bullying Behaviors Among US Youth: Prevalence and Association With Psychosocial Adjustment. Journal of the American Medical Association, 285(16), The School Associated Violent Deaths Study, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice. 12. U.S. Department of Justice. National Crime Victimization Survey. 13. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2001). Youth Violence: A Report of the Surgeon General. Date of Publication: 2001

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