• May/June 2001
  • Vol. 2, No. 3

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New Findings on Youth Violence

Two recent government reports examine the ways in which exposure to violence can place children at risk for physical and mental problems. Both reports also recommend approaches to prevention and treatment.

Youth Violence: A Report of the Surgeon General, published in January, finds that youth violence has declined significantly in the last seven years, but warns against complacency and urges a public health approach to combating youth violence that emphasizes prevention. Another report, published in November 2000 by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), sounds many of the same themes and presents eight principles for addressing the problem.

The Surgeon General's report identifies risks that childhood exposure to violence pose over the course of a lifetime. This developmental perspective is intended to help researchers target interventions to the life stages in which they will be most effective.

"Clearly, the major factors in youth violence in children, especially prior to puberty, are in the family. After adolescence, that shifts and the major risk factors become peer interactions, including gangs," explains Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher. "But, without question, the role of family, the role of parents and the role of parent-child interactions are major risk factors in the development of patterns of youth violence."

The report reviews the research literature on factors that place youth at risk for, or protect them from, a violent lifestyle. Despite myths to the contrary, the report notes that

  • Child abuse and neglect do not inevitably lead to violent behavior later in life
  • African American and Hispanic youths are not more likely to become involved in violence than other racial or ethnic groups
  • There are effective ways to treat or prevent violent behavior.

The OJJDP document reports on a June 1999 National Summit on Children Exposed to Violence, which brought together 150 professionals from diverse disciplines to develop an action plan. The participants defined the following eight principles to address the problem:

  • Work together.
  • Begin earlier.
  • Think developmentally.
  • Make mothers safe from domestic violence to keep children safe.
  • Enforce the law.
  • Make adequate resources available.
  • Work from a sound knowledge base.
  • Create a culture of nonviolence.

The OJJDP report suggests practical steps that professionals serving youth and families can take to put these principles into action and also provides resources and examples of successful programs.

The executive summary and full report of Youth Violence: A Report of the Surgeon General, as well as a press release, Web Cast of a news conference, transcripts of a CNN online live chat with Dr. Satcher, fact sheets, and related free resources are available online at: http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/youthviolence/youvioreport.htm. The report can also be ordered from the Knowledge Exchange Network at 1-800-789-2647.

Safe From the Start: Taking Action on Children Exposed to Violence is available online at: http://www.ncjrs.org/html/ojjdp/summary_safefromstart/index.html or by calling the National Criminal Justice Reference Service at 1-800-851-3420.

Related Items

"National Center Aims to Break Cycle of Violence" in this issue of the Children's Bureau Express,

"Pediatricians Sharpen Focus on Violence Prevention" April 2000 issue of the Children's Bureau Express

See the following publications from the National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information (http://nccanch.acf.hhs.gov):

  • Family Violence resource listing
  • In Harm's Way: Domestic Violence and Child Maltreatment (Note: this publication is no longer available.)

Visit the website of the National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center at http://www.safeyouth.org, established by the White House Council on Youth Violence as a central source of information on prevention and intervention programs, publications, research, and statistics on violence committed by and against children and teens. The Resource Center call center can be reached at 1-866-SAFEYOUTH (723-3968).

Best Practices of Youth Violence Prevention: A Sourcebook for Community Action, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, November 2000 (http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/dvp/bestpractices.htm).

Helping Your Children Navigate Their Teenage Years: A Guide for Parents, White House Council on Youth Violence, December 2000 (http://download.ncadi.samhsa.gov/ken/pdf/SVP-0013/SVP-0013.pdf).

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