Youth violence is not only a widespread social phenomenon but also a significant health problem. Homicide is the fourth most common cause of death among people aged 10-29 (Golshiri et al., 2018). Apart from this, the experience of violence may lead to other severe mental and physical disorders. Young people can also be involved in the process of violence as perpetrators, which raises the question of their psychological health as well.
Youth violence may be viewed as a cruel and harmful behavior “exerted by, or against, children and young people” (Seal and Harris, 2018, p. 23). However, it seems that similar reasons underlie the two sides of youth violence, and thus, their causes and effects may be examined together. This paper attempts to identify the main reasons behind the abuse among young people and its potential consequences for youth and society.
Causes of Youth Violence
It seems evident that young people are heavily influenced by the community where they have grown up and live. People obtain their values and foundations of the worldview in childhood and adolescence. That is why youth violence can be caused by the background of those who perpetrate or experience abuse. The family has the most substantial impact on the behavior of young people, among other institutions. The family directly relates to youth violence considered as experience. Child abuse is one of the most popular forms of violence against youth. However, it is also clear that family life can lead to acts of violence committed by young people.
Bushman et al. (2016) argue that “interparental violence, chaotic family life,” and “inconsistent discipline” are among crucial risk factors of youth violence (p. 21). In other words, young people who were poorly treated in their family or witnessed some cruelty have a higher chance of becoming perpetrators. The neighborhood plays a similar role in the expansion of violence among people. Youth who live in poor areas with high levels of criminality face cruelty and abuse very often, and thus, may be severely influenced by them.
Although the awareness of a person’s surroundings can help in predicting his or her violent behavior, there are still some other factors that may contribute to youth abuse. It is impossible to omit the fact that the social surrounding does not influence some features of personality. These traits are shared among the perpetrators and include “psychopathy, narcissism, and Machiavellianism” (Bushman et al., 2018). All of them are similar in the sense that people who possess them do not think about the feelings of others, and therefore, can sometimes be very violent. Finally, some people may have a mental disorder or congenital propensity for violence.
Access to Guns and the Influence of the Media
Shooting is one of the most common forms of youth violence, and guns are the primary weapons of perpetrators. Arms allow committing crimes, even those people who are not able to do it in any other way. Thus, even physically weak adolescents have access to a murder weapon. This happens partly due to broad coverage of violence in media. Young people hear about numerous acts of violence daily, and this news may serve as an inspiration for them. This news covers not only particular acts of violence committed by youth but also wars and armed conflicts. It seems that even aggressive sports may be a reason for young people’s vicious behavior. The ideas of dominance and brute force are rather popular with the media these days (Bushman et al., 2018). In this context, the media is also an essential boost to youth violence.
Effects of Youth Violence
Extension of Violence
It is an undeniable fact that violence only leads to more violence. According to Lovegrove and Cornell (2016), those young people who were involved in some act of violence “have a higher likelihood of engaging in other forms of problem behavior” (p. 6). This means that if some person committed a crime during his or her adolescence, there is a probability that they will be involved in more severe crimes in the future.
Moreover, the experience of violence in adolescence can also be a reason for delinquent behavior in adulthood. Those who have been bullied or rejected in their schoolyears have a high chance of becoming perpetrators of abuse when they grow up (Bushman et al., 2016). Thus, both perpetrators and victims disseminate violence across society.
It was already mentioned above that youth violence is a significant health problem. It is clear that those people who experienced abuse suffer most of all. For instance, if a person was bullied in school, it can result in him or her experiencing psychological trauma for the rest of their life. Victimization may cause addiction to tobacco, alcohol, and illegal drugs (Lovegrove and Cornell, 2016). Thus, victimized people might become ill both mentally and physically. This example shows the consequences of non-fatal youth violence. The effects of abuse, which leads to someone’s death, are somewhat visible and even worse than in the case of non-fatal victimization.
On the other hand, it seems that young people who acted as perpetrators may also have health and mental problems due to their experience of violence. Some people may never regret harming others, but those who will repent their violent behavior are likely to suffer from it as well. This burden can be especially hard if they committed some severe crime, and nobody knew about it.
One can imagine a person who participated in bullying, which resulted in the death of the victim. If nobody revealed that this person was guilty of this crime, he or she would have to keep it to themselves to the end of days. If this person starts feeling sorry for this crime one day, he or she can, therefore, experience some serious psychological problems. The same as in the previous case, this person might become addicted to alcohol and drugs. Overall, it can be seen that the mental and physical health of both perpetrators and victims can be damaged by youth violence.
Even though youth violence can be viewed differently – as perpetration and as an experience of being victimized – some fundamental causes and effects of this phenomenon still exist. Young people who commit acts of violence are strongly influenced by their background, personal traits, access to guns, and the coverage of abuse in the media. At the same time, these reasons also apply to the youth who experienced violence. The two main effects of youth violence are the dissemination of abuse across social and health problems of perpetrators and victims. As can be seen, youth violence is a serious health and social issue which affects the whole society.
Bushman, B.J. et al. (2016) ‘Youth violence: what we know and what we need to know’, American Psychologist, 71(1), pp. 17-39.
Golshiri, P. et al. (2018) ‘Youth violence and related risk factors: a cross-sectional study in 2800 adolescents’, Advanced Biomedical Research 7(138), pp. 1-8, doi: 10.4103/abr.abr_137_18
Lovegrove, P.J. and Cornell, D.G. (2016) ‘Patterns of bullying and victimization associated with other problem behaviors among high school students: a conditional latent class approach’, in Taylor, T. (ed.) Youth violence prevention. London: Routledge, pp. 5-22.
Seal, M. and Harris, P. (2016) Responding to youth violence through youth work. Bristol: Policy Press.