Fight or flight: Violent teens may be following parents' lead

April 29, 2012

While it may be cute when a 3-year-old imitates his parent's bad behavior, when adolescents do so, it's no longer a laughing matter.

Teens who fight may be modeling what they see adult relatives do or have parents with pro-fighting attitudes, according to a study presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Boston.

"Parents and other adults in the family have a substantial influence on adolescents' engagement in fighting," said Rashmi Shetgiri, MD, FAAP, lead author of the study. "Interventions to prevent fighting, therefore, should involve parents and teens."

Dr. Shetgiri, assistant professor of pediatrics at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and Children's Medical Center, Dallas, and her colleagues conducted 12 focus groups with 65 middle and to discuss why youths fight and how violence can be prevented. Groups were divided by race/ethnicity and whether students were fighters or nonfighters based on self-report.

Youths said they fight to defend themselves or others, to gain or maintain respect, to respond to verbal insults or because they are angry due to other stressors. Girls also cited gossip or jealousy as reasons for fighting.

The discussions showed that parental attitudes toward fighting and parental role modeling of aggressive behavior influence youth fighting. Family attitudes also may prevent youths from fighting. Many Latino students, for example, noted that their parents condoned fighting only when physically attacked and said not wanting to hurt or embarrass their parents could prevent them from fighting.

Peers also can have a positive or on fighting by de-escalating situations or encouraging violence.

The conversations also revealed that nonfighters use various strategies to avoid confrontations such as walking away, ignoring insults or joking to diffuse tension. Fighters, however, said they are unable to ignore insults and are aware of few other conflict-resolution methods.

Potential interventions suggested by youths include anger and stress management programs led by young adults who have overcome violence, and doctors counseling youths about the consequences of fighting.

"Our study suggested that there may be differences between boys and girls, and racial/ethnic groups in risk and protective factors for ," Dr. Shetgiri concluded. "This has important implications for violence prevention programs and individuals working with violent teens."

Explore further: How to raise a child who doesn't bully

Related Stories

How to raise a child who doesn't bully

May 1, 2011
With all of the media attention on young people being tormented by bullies and cyberbullies, parents may wonder what they can do to protect their children. The question they may want to ask instead is how can they prevent ...

Parents have role in smoking prevention

May 2, 2011
Parents shouldn't let up when it comes to discouraging their kids from smoking.

Recommended for you

Small drop in measles vaccinations would have outsized effect, study estimates

July 24, 2017
Small reductions in childhood measles vaccinations in the United States would produce disproportionately large increases in the number of measles cases and in related public health costs, according to a new study by researchers ...

At the cellular level, a child's loss of a father is associated with increased stress

July 18, 2017
The absence of a father—due to incarceration, death, separation or divorce—has adverse physical and behavioral consequences for a growing child. But little is known about the biological processes that underlie this link ...

New comparison chart sheds light on babies' tears

July 10, 2017
A chart that enables parents and clinicians to calculate if a baby is crying more than it should in the first three months of its life has been created by a Kingston University London researcher, following a study of colic ...

Blood of SIDS infants contains high levels of serotonin

July 3, 2017
Blood samples from infants who died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) had high levels of serotonin, a chemical that carries signals along and between nerves, according to a study funded in part by the National Institutes ...

Is your child's 'penicillin allergy' real?

July 3, 2017
(HealthDay)—Many children suspected of being allergic to the inexpensive, first-line antibiotic penicillin actually aren't, new research indicates.

Probiotic supplements failed to prevent babies' infections

July 3, 2017
(HealthDay)—Probiotic supplements may not protect babies from catching colds or stomach bugs in day care, a new clinical trial suggests.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

rwinners
not rated yet Apr 29, 2012
It is unfortunate that physical fighting is still a norm in life. Still, it will only be after the end of bullying on scales from the individual to national will fighting end. Perhaps, even, it is an impossible aim eliminate the natural differences between individuals.
Perhaps fighting is part of our nature and without that part, we would be less.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.