29 April 2012

Parents and Child Upbringing Major Psychological Factors In Teen Violence

Violent behavior among children and adolescents is fast becoming a major concern.

Most parents who witness violent behavior in their children attribute it to a phase in their childhood. This type of behavior should be of immediate concern and must be dealt with immediately. Violent behavior in a child at any age always needs to be taken seriously.

Curbing teen violence is a community effort. Parents, teachers and community members should be active and aware of this growing problem. Identifying risk factors within the environment and the community can decrease or even prevent violent behavior. Some of these factors are:
  • Previous aggressive or violent behavior
  • Previous experience of physical abuse and/or sexual abuse
  • Exposure to violence in the home and/or community
  • Genetic (family heredity) factors
  • Exposure to violence in media (TV, movies, etc.)
  • Use of drugs and/or alcohol
  • Presence of firearms in home
  • Combination of stressful family socioeconomic factors (poverty, severe deprivation, marital breakup, single parenting, unemployment, loss of support from extended family)
  • Brain damage from head injury

Studies have shown that identifying these factors in a child or teen is helpful in his or her rehabilitation. The responsibility of teaching a child how to control anger and how to express that anger or frustration in appropriate ways lies with everyone concerned, not just the kids.

Also, dramatically decreasing the exposure of children and adolescents to violence in the home, community, and through the media is one major factor in alleviating this problem.

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

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."

Video: Teen Violence

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 high school students 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 negative influence 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 fighting," Dr. Shetgiri concluded. "This has important implications for violence prevention programs and individuals working with violent teens."


Understanding Violent Behavior In Children and Adolescents
American Academy of Pediatrics
Pediatric Academic Societies
University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center
Children's Medical Center
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