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YOUTH VIOLENCE: The annihilation of a generation

31st October 2011   ·   0 Comments

By Michael Radcliff
Contributing Writer

Part I of a three-part series

In 1933, 75 percent of the deaths of young people between the ages of 15 and 19 were a result of natural causes. By 1993, some 60 years later, 80 percent of these deaths were caused by homicide and unintentional injury. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, homicide is now the second-leading cause of death for young people ages 10 to 24 years old. In 2007, 5,764 young people ages 10 to 24 were murdered at a rate of 16 kids each day. Of this group, 86 percent or 4,973 of these victims of homicide were male and 14 percent or 791 were female. According to a recent survey, nearly one out of four — or 25 percent — of high school boys reported taking a weapon to school at least once in the past year.

As Dr. Edward Cornwell, Professor of Surgery and Director of Adult Trauma Service at The Johns Hopkins Hospital explained in a lecture to a group of faculty, staff and students at Stanford University entitled “A Trauma Surgeon’s Perspective on Youth Violence, “The new public health problem [today] is kids thinking violence is cool. The upcoming generation will be more exposed to direct violence and violence in the media, with easier access to guns, and with fewer non-violent role models than any other generation in history. Arguments that used to be played out in after-school fistfights are now resulting in kids dying… We live in a country that glamorizes violence… Kids from all ages and all backgrounds are inundated with images of violence that glorify it..”

As alluded to by Dr. Cornwell, the culture of youth violence is a direct result of a lifestyle that includes readily available guns, illicit drugs, promiscuous sex, and other risky behaviors. Ad­ditionally, according to the AMA’s report on Youth and Violence, “In the United States, almost 16 million adolescents — including 70 percent to 95 percent of children in America’s inner cities — have witnessed some form of violent assault, including robbery, stabbing, shooting, murder, or domestic abuse.” On a global skill, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Youth violence takes many forms including bullying, gang violence, sexual aggression, and assaults occurring in streets, bars and nightclubs. The victims and perpetrators alike are young people, and the consequences of youth violence can be devastating. Across the world an average of 565 young people aged 10 to 29 die every day through interpersonal violence, with males at greater risk, and for each death there are an estimated 20 to 40 youth that require hospital treatment for a violence-related injury.

Who Are These Young Perpetrators?

According to the Surgeon General’s Report on Youth Violence, “there are two general onset trajectories for youth violence — an early one, in which violence begins before puberty, and a late one, in which violence begins in adolescence. Youths who become violent before about age 13 generally commit more crimes, and more serious crimes, for a longer time. These young people exhibit a pattern of escalating violence through childhood, and they sometimes continue their violence into adulthood. It goes on to say that, “most youth violence begins in adolescence and ends with the transition into adulthood.” Surveys consistently show that about nearly one-third of all male youths and nearly one in four female youths reported having committed a serious violent offense before reaching the age of 18.

Recent attention has focused on those young people researchers classify as bullies. Research has determined that nearly 60 percent of boys who bully other children — in grades six through nine, were subsequently convicted of at least one crime by the age of 24; and nearly four out of 10 of these same bullies, were found to have had three or more convictions by age 24.

What Are The Risk Factors For Becoming A Violent Juvenile Offender?

Over the years, much research has gone into identifying risk factors relating to personal characteristics, environmental conditions, societal conditions, etc.. that place children and adolescents at risk for falling into a lifestyle of violent behavior. It was determined that risk factors exist in virtually every area of life — individual, family, school, peer group and community. The Surgeon General report on youth violence determined that “each individual interacts in complex ways with other people and conditions in the environment to produce violent behavior.

“The strongest risk factors,” the report went on to state, “during childhood are involvement in serious but not necessarily violent criminal behavior; substance use; being male; physical aggression; low family socioeconomic status or poverty and antisocial parents — all individual or family attributes or conditions. The more risk factors a child or young person is exposed to, the greater the likelihood that he or she will become violent.”

During adolescence, the influence of family is largely replaced by peer influences. The strongest risk factors are ties to antisocial or delinquent peers, belonging to a gang, and involvement in other criminal acts. The CDC adds that “individual risk factors leading to teen violence include: attention deficits/hyperactivity; antisocial beliefs and attitudes; history of early aggressive behavior; involvement with drugs, alcohol, or tobacco; early involvement in general offenses; low IQ; poor behavioral control; social cognitive or information-processing deficits.”The CDC goes on to state that family factors in youth violence include “authoritarian child-rearing attitudes; exposure to violence and family conflict; harsh, lax, or inconsistent disciplinary practices; lack of involvement in the child’s life; low emotional attachment to parents or caregivers; low parental education and income; parental substance abuse and criminality; poor family functioning and poor monitoring and supervision of children.”

Editor’s Note: In part II of this three-part series, The Louisiana Weekly will examine the Role of Alcohol, Drugs and Rap Music…in Youth Violence; and Who are the Victims of Youth Violence.

On Friday, November 4, Southern University at New Orleans will be holding a conference entitled “Violence Affecting Today’s Youth As Victims and Perpetrators: Interventions” ad­dressing the issue of youth violence. Pre-registration is required. For more information, call (504) 286-5376 or send an email to or

This article was originally published in the October 31, 2011 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper

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