Teen bullying, school shootings and gang-related activities can incite fear and disgust in people reading the latest stories involving teen violence. Although many factors contribute to teens behaving violently, not all teens who have risk factors will become violent. Understanding the risk factors, however, can help adults identify at-risk teens.
The neighborhood where a teen lives can influence his behavior. High-crime neighborhoods increase the availability of guns, gangs and drugs, which are all risk factors for violence. Communities with high levels of poverty, little community involvement and diminished opportunity for economic advancement have more violent teens. According to the report "Youth Violence: A Report to the Surgeon General," on the National Center for Biotechnology Information website, few after-school activities and part-time employment opportunities, combined with a lack of supervision, leads to increased violent behavior among youth.
Teens who associate with delinquent peers or become involved in gangs are much more likely to exhibit violent behavior. According to a 2002 study published by Child and Adolescent Clinics of North America, gang members represent a small percentage of the population, but are responsible for the vast majority of violent crime. Although most gang members have a history of violence before joining a gang, their violent behavior usually increases after joining.
Socioeconomic factors can contribute to violence in teens. Poverty, living with a single parent and lack of support from extended family increase a teen's risk of violence. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that inconsistent or harsh parenting strategies can lead to violent behavior among teens. Parents with addictions or who model criminal behavior increase a child's risk of violence, as does a lack of involvement in a child's life and low parental education.
The National Institute of Mental Health reports that a genetic link exists to violent behavior because some teens are predisposed to impulsiveness and aggression. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, brain damage from a head injury places a teen at risk of violence. Physical and sexual abuse increases a teen's risk of becoming violent. Exposure to violence, either in the home or through media, can heighten risk as well. Other risk factors include substance abuse and the availability of firearms.
- American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry: Children and TV Violence
- American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry: Understanding Violent Behavior in Children and Adolescents
- National Institute of Mental Health: Aggression-Related Gene Weakens Brain’s Impulse Control Circuits
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Youth Violence -- Risk and Protective Factors
- Child and Psychiatric Clinics of North America: Epidemiology of Juvenile Violence
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Youth Violence -- A Report to the Surgeon General; Department of Health and Human Services
- BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images