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Violence On The Rise Among Children?


I'm a member of your program. As a middle school teacher (NY), it appears to me that children are becoming more and more violent over time. This greatly concerns me as well as the other teachers in my district. In your work, do you find that childhood violence is on the rise? If so, what can teachers do in the schools to intervene? Is there any research on any of this?

Thanks in advance,


Hi T.,

There is a great concern about the incidence of violent behavior among kids and teens. This complex and troubling issue needs to be carefully understood by moms & dads, teachers, and other adults.

Kids as young as preschoolers can show violent behavior. Moms & dads and other adults who witness the behavior may be concerned, however, they often hope that the young youngster will "grow out of it." Violent behavior in a youngster at any age always needs to be taken seriously. It should not be quickly dismissed as "just a phase they're going through!"

Violent behavior in kids and teens can include a wide range of behaviors:

· cruelty toward animal
· explosive temper tantrum
· fighting
· fire setting
· intentional destruction of property and vandalism
· physical aggression
· threats or attempts to hurt others (including homicidal thoughts)
· use of weapon

Numerous research studies have concluded that a complex interaction or combination of factors leads to an increased risk of violent behavior in kids and teens. These factors include:

·Being the victim of physical abuse and/or sexual abuse
·Brain damage from head injury
·Combination of stressful family socioeconomic factors (poverty, severe deprivation, marital breakup, single parenting, unemployment, loss of support from extended family)
·Exposure to violence in media (TV, movies, etc.)
·Exposure to violence in the home and/or community
·Genetic (family heredity) factors
·Presence of firearms in home
·Previous aggressive or violent behavior
·Use of drugs and/or alcohol

Kids who have several risk factors and show the following behaviors should be carefully evaluated:

·Becoming easily frustrated
·Extreme impulsiveness
·Extreme irritability
·Frequent loss of temper or blow-ups
·Intense anger

Moms & dads and teachers should be careful not to minimize these behaviors in kids. Whenever a parent or other adult is concerned, they should immediately arrange for a comprehensive evaluation by a qualified mental health professional. Early treatment by a professional can often help.

The goals of treatment typically focus on helping the youngster to:

· learn how to control his/her anger
· express anger and frustrations in appropriate ways
· be responsible for his/her actions
· accept consequences

In addition, family conflicts, school problems, and community issues must be addressed.

Research studies have shown that much violent behavior can be decreased or even prevented if the above risk factors are significantly reduced or eliminated. Most importantly, efforts should be directed at dramatically decreasing the exposure of kids and teens to violence in the home, community, and through the media. Clearly, violence leads to violence.

In addition, the following strategies can lessen or prevent violent behavior:

·Early intervention programs for violent youngsters
·Monitoring youngster's viewing of violence on TV/videos/movies
·Prevention of youngster abuse (use of programs such as parent training, family support programs, etc.)
·Sex education and parenting programs for teens


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