Some people choose to act violently as a way of releasing feelings of frustration, desperation or anger. As such, they undermine the use of nonviolent means of dealing with their negative feelings. Violent tendencies in the United States is a profound issue among the young people. However, there is no general explanation for the increase in youth violence over the years. Several things may be responsible for violent behavior among the American youth including peer pressure, low self-esteem, low educational achievement, witnessing domestic violence, being victims of early childhood abuse among other factors that may trigger negative emotions. Youth violence has the potential to cause social isolation, dislike or even juvenile delinquency. Since most of the violent cases involving adults can be traced back to their youthful years, tackling the issue of youth violence can help make the American society safe for all people.
Youth violence has become a far-reaching problem in the American society today; it raises both social and health concerns in the country and effective ways of dealing with the problem requires a holistic approach. While there are many sociological theories that relate to youth violence in one way or another, the social disorganization theory perhaps provides the most plausible explanation for the persistence of the problem. According to the social disorganization theory, violence naturally becomes part of the cognitive dimension once the criminal behavior is embedded in a particular neighborhood (Karimu & Akintayo, 2012). For that reason, youth violence subsequently becomes a normal way of life used to solve individual, school and community problems among the young people.
Even those youths that get the loving support of their parents and other adult family members remain exposed to risk of violent crime, delinquency, and detention during their lifetime if they suffer from some social disadvantage. In essence, exposure to violence in one’s neighborhood among young people results in social conditions that rationalize involvement in violent behavior even when they are confronted with nonviolent alternatives.
Many studies report that domestic violence has severe effects on the social, behavioral, and emotional development of the youth with regards to intimate partner violence, bullying and victimization (Voisin & Hong, 2012). In 2007, culpable homicide was reported as the second most common cause of death among youth falling within between the age bracket of 10 and 24 years, leading to the loss of 16 lives daily on average (Chonody, Ferman, Amitrani-Welsh, & Martin, 2012). Behind such statistics are individuals whose families continue to suffer because of the continued effects of youth violence.
The etiology of statistics from the existing research work remains mysterious since much of the empirical evidence available has not provided adequate explanations for differences in exposure to violence in terms of race or ethnicity. In general, many researchers have found that youths living in the most disadvantaged neighborhoods tend to report the highest rates of exposure to violence. Nonetheless, multivariate analyzes of exposure to violence are quite rare, and community inﬂuences on exposure to violence continues to be misunderstood. Anecdotal evidence indicate that the severity of criminal behavior among youthful offenders has increased over the past decade and the profile of these offenders in both the psychological and demographic aspects has changed as well (Ching, Daffern & Thomas, 2013).
While such evidence highlights the persistent participation of young Americans in violent behavior, they evoke more questions concerning the underlying motivations behind youth violence. In lieu of the damaging impact such behavior has on the youth perpetrators, their victims and societies as a whole, the significance of increasing the understanding of youth violence is even more crucial for the identiﬁcation and selection of the most appropriate preventative and treatment measures. In addition, there is a high correlation between poverty, race and violence and this relationship is extensively attributable to structural factors that allocate resources and benefits in highly uneven ways (Chonody et al., 2013).
Recognizing the rampant extent of exposure to violence that children and adolescents continue to face across the United States, and the deleterious effects attributed to such exposure is very essential when dealing with the problem. The contemporary interdisciplinary research revolves around identifying and addressing individual, school, family, and community-based factors that lead to youth violence (Zimmerman & Messner, 2013). A large number of intervention programs indicate that young people who take part in well-organized and coordinated activities derive a range of psychosocial, behavioral and academic benefits from participation. According to Gardner and Brooks-Gunn (2009), neighborhood youth groups may aid to reduce violent crime rates and, thus, limit opportunities for exposure to violence among neighborhood youth (Gardner & Brooks-Gunn, 2009).
The United States government on its part has continued to make numerous efforts to minimize youth violence in the American society. In 2011, for example, the attorney general formed a task force on ‘ Children Exposed to Violence’ as part of the Defending Childhood Initiative designed to reduce the prevalence of youth violence in the country (Zimmerman & Messner, 2013). The task force suggested that having a proper understanding of the individual and contextual pathways leading to exposure of young people to violence is essential for alleviating its harmful effects.
Using the existing body of literature regarding sociology, psychology, criminology, and public health, multidisciplinary experts have identiﬁed various negative consequences of youth exposure to violent behavior, including mental, physiological, psychobiological, neuroendocrine, and psychosocial disorders. According to Voisin and Hong (2012), studies on the impact of exposure to intimate partner violence (IPV) regularly reveal that children who are witnesses of such violence are more likely to exhibit internalizing behaviors such as anxiety and depression.
Studying young people within their social and behavioral contexts help to provide a more reliable indication of the sphere of violent inﬂuence that they face on a daily basis. Subsequently, gaining an in-depth understanding of the ways in which both social and behavioral conditions co-vary with exposure to violence is an integral part of designing individual-based and community-speciﬁc programs, which have the greatest probability of being successful. The research findings of Zimmerman and Messner (2013), for instance, emphasized the need to take out children and adolescents from minority ethnic groups and disadvantaged neighborhoods that lack enough services designed to boost youth growth and development.
The ‘ No Child Left Behind’ policy, which permits parents and guardians to move children out of schools situated in crime-prone neighborhoods, has so far been effective in limiting the exposure of young people to violence. What is more, school-based programs tailored to encourage active community responses when the youth are exposed to violence have promoted the use of adaptive strategies to help reduce the harmful effects on those who have witnessed the violence. Thus, the youths cope up with the aftermath of such exposure in a less detrimental manner. Clearly, initiatives that limit the risk factors for youth exposure to violence, and that mitigate its adverse consequences have significantly contributed to the decline in youth violence.
The most common forms of youth violence in the United States involve street or gang ﬁghts, intimidation using dangerous weapons, and sometimes shootings. These forms of violence are major causes of fear for most young people. Many of these youth are fearful due to the risk of violent victimization. Hence, they do not consider the possibility of making it into young adulthood while faced with the imminent threat of being violently injured or even killed. Meaningful community participation and positive role modeling by adults can help lessen cases of youth violence and other related criminal behaviors in the American society (Chonody et al., 2012). Such “ connectedness” will be instrumental in decreasing the negative implications of perpetual exposure to violence for those youth in the community who are affected by it.
All in all, even though youth violence in the United States has, for the most part, declined in recent years, a significant number of young people are still involved in gang crimes, school bullying, and other forms of violent crimes every year either as victims or offenders. Violence intervention initiatives for the American youth can succeed in providing alternative ways of ensuring nonviolent self-expression and social identity. Unfortunately, very little information about the effectiveness of violence prevention and intervention programs delivered to youths living in violent environments is known. A major aspect of keeping youth violence a public policy issue would constantly entail identifying and addressing the factors that contribute to the problem.
Ching, H., Daffern, M., & Thomas, S. (2013). A Comparison of contemporary and traditional classiﬁcation schemes used to categorise youth violence. The Journal of Forensic Psychiatry & Psychology, 24(5), 658–674.
Chonody, J., Ferman, B., Amitrani-Welsh, J., & Martin, T. (2013). Violence through the eyes of youth: A Photovoice exploration. Journal of Community Psychology, 41(1), 84-101.
Gardner, M., & Brooks-Gunn, J. (2009). Adolescents’ exposure to community violence: Are Neighborhood youth organizations protective? Journal of Community Psychology, 37(4), 505-525.
Karimu, O., & Akintayo, M. O. (2012). Understanding juvenile violence in America society. International Journal of Humanities and Social Science, 2(20), 257-264.
Voisin, D. R., & Hong, J. S. (2012). A Meditational model linking witnessing intimate partner violence and bullying behaviors and victimization among youth. Educational Psychology Review, 24, 479-498.
Zimmerman, G. M., & Messner, S. F. (2013). Individual, family background, and contextual explanations of racial and ethnic disparities in youths’ exposure to violence. American Journal of Public Health, 103(3), 435-442.