Expert panel calls for new research approach to prevent youth violence

Most research into youth violence has sought to understand the risk factors that increase the likelihood of violence. Now, a federal panel has called for a new research approach to identify the protective factors that would reduce the likelihood that violence will happen. Grounded in the tools and insights of public health, the approach calls for studies that can guide the development of prevention strategies to reduce or eliminate risk factors, and add or enhance protective factors. The findings of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Expert Panel on Protective Factors for Youth Violence are published in a supplement to the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Homicide continues to be the second leading cause of death for youth ages 15-24, and the leading cause of death for African American youth. More than 700,000 young people ages 10 to 24 were treated in emergency departments in 2010 for injuries sustained due to violence. But responding to violence after it happens is only part of the solution. Youth violence must be prevented before it begins. In addition, most youth, even those living in high risk situations, are not violent and more must be learned about the factors that are helping youth, protecting them from engaging in so that others can benefit. One critical step is a better understanding of the factors that protect youth from engaging in violence.

"We can prevent youth violence and have specific ways to address the current challenges that youth violence creates," said Jeff Hall, PhD, MSPH, guest editor and a behavioral scientist in the Division of , which is housed in CDC's National Injury Center. "Our hope is this work will inform the ability of prevention efforts to reduce risk and enhance strengths within youth, their , families, schools, and communities to prevent violence."

This special supplement, which is the first publication developed from the panel's work, is designed to increase understanding of protective factors for youth violence perpetration by clarifying methods for conceptualizing, measuring, and distinguishing risk and protective effects.

Highlights from the supplement include:

  • Protective factors can potentially work by directly reducing the likelihood of violence or by buffering against other .
  • Some factors display both risk and protective effects. For example, at least one study showed that low academic achievement was associated with increased risk for violence while high academic achievement was protective.
  • For other factors, the strength of their effects on youth violence depends on their level and may be greater at some levels than others.
    • For example, high levels of school attachment (e.g., looking forward to going to school, liking school, liking the teacher, and liking a class) decreased the odds of violent behavior but low school attachment was not associated with violence / did not increase the odds of violent behavior.
    • Some factors may thus have a protective effect without any corresponding risk effect and vice versa.

  • The influence of protective factors and the form of their relationship with violence perpetration may vary across settings, forms of violence (e.g., physical fighting, verbal aggression), and by age. Prevention strategies should be designed to enhance the influences that are most critical among the intended recipients.
  • Direct protective effects were least likely to occur alone, and more likely to occur in combination with risk effects. Risk effects were most likely to occur without an accompanying protective effect.
is a complex problem that is influenced by a range of modifiable risk and protective factors. High-quality partnerships among community collaborators, practitioners, and prevention researchers are necessary to understand local needs, select effective prevention strategies, and effectively implement and sustain those strategies.

More information: The supplement is freely available at www.ajpmonline.org/supplements

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

For family violence among adolescents, mattering matters

Apr 18, 2011

Adolescents who believe they matter to their families are less likely to threaten or engage in violence against family members, according to a new study led by Brown University sociologist Gregory Elliott. The research s ...

Study links mental health issues to youth violence

Sep 02, 2011

(Medical Xpress) -- Serious mental health issues in childhood may predict future youth violence, according to a UT Dallas study sponsored by a grant from the National Institute of Justice.

Violence remains in top 10 causes of death

Aug 25, 2011

Suicide, child abuse, playground fights, gang violence, sexual assault, and domestic violence are just a few examples of violence that touch people in all walks of life and communities everywhere. Homicide and suicide remain ...

Recommended for you

Study reveals state of crisis in Canadian foster care system

6 hours ago

A new study of foster care in Canada led by a researcher at Western University reveals a shrinking number of foster care providers are available across the country to care for a growing number of children with increasingly ...

Researchers prove the benefits of persimmons for diet

8 hours ago

Alba Mir and Ana Domingo, researchers from the Department of Analytical Chemistry of the University of Valencia, under the supervision of professors Miguel de la Guardia and Maria Luisa Cervera, from the same department, ...

User comments