Youth Violence: Definition & Causes

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  • 0:03 The Statistics
  • 1:11 Types of Violence
  • 1:36 Individual Risk Factors
  • 2:50 Family Risk Factors
  • 4:02 Peer and Social Risk Factors
  • 5:01 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Michelle Blessing

Michelle is a corrections therapist at a state prison. She has also taught classes at community college. She holds a Master's degree in Psychology and a Bachelor's degree in Sociology.

Most children act in negative ways at some point in their lives, so what really defines youth violence? This lesson examines different types of youth violence, as well as risk factors.

The Statistics

200,000 children between the ages of 10 and 29 die each year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). You might be asking yourself, why? What's the cause? Car accidents? Disease? The answer, unfortunately, is homicide, which is one form of youth violence.

Youth violence can be defined as any intentional act using physical force against another person or group with the consequence of injury, mental harm, or death, committed by a person between the ages of 10 and 24. There can be varying degrees of youth violence; some acts, such as bullying or pushing, may result in more mental than physical pain, while acts like assault or robbery can lead to serious injury or even death. Youth violence can have very severe consequences for children and adolescents. In fact, youth violence is the 'third leading cause of death for people between the ages of 15 and 24,' according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Types of Violence

Youth violence can range in severity from hitting and pushing to actual physical or sexual assault. The following are all considered examples of youth violence, listed in order of seriousness:

  • Pushing
  • Slapping/hitting
  • Kicking
  • Physical assault (with or without a weapon)
  • Robbery
  • Sexual assault
  • Homicide

Individual Risk Factors

Although being a victim of violence is a risk factor for a child to be a perpetrator, or one who carries out a violent act, there are other risks that might not be as obvious. A child diagnosed with a learning disability or cognitive disorder, such as ADHD, has a higher risk of engaging in youth violence. Other risk factors include the following:

  • Low IQ scores
  • Emotional or mental health problems
  • Any use of drugs or alcohol
  • Early displays of non-typical aggression
  • Poor impulse control

It is important to note that these individual risk factors do not cause youth violence; however, they increase the chances a child will engage in deviant behavior. For example, many toddlers act aggressively as they are learning to interact with peers and handle emotions such as anger and frustration. Once children reach a certain level of cognition, which is a fancy word for thinking, they can better handle their feelings, and the aggression tends to subside. For children who do not learn emotional regulation and impulse control, the chance of acting violently increases.

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