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Risk Factors Of Youth Violence

Youth violence is a global public health problem. It includes a range of acts from bullying and physical fighting, to more severe sexual and physical assault to homicide.

Youth violence increases the costs of health, welfare and criminal justice services; reduces productivity and decreases the value of property but what causes youth violence.


Discovering and documenting the root causes of crime and violence has been a primary objective of crime scholars for over a hundred years.

It is widely believed that if we can only identify the cause or causes of criminality, we will be better able to prevent violence in the first place.  A number of academic disciplines – including anthropology, biology, criminology, psychiatry, psychology, social work, and sociology, have developed specific theories to explain the onset and persistence of violent behaviour.


Some of these theories focus on how individual propensities, including biological and psychological disorders, increase the probability of violence. At the other end of the spectrum, structural theories propose that variables like poverty, oppression, social inequality and racism must be considered in any explanation of violent behaviour.


Still others maintain that the source of violence lies in family dynamics, neighbourhood characteristics or peer socialization processes.  It is quite difficult to negotiate and organize the plethora of ideas, hypotheses and empirical findings that mark the study of crime and violence.

What we do however know is that there 
are several factors that contribute to violence in youth and they include a combination of individual, relationship, community, and societal factors.


Individual Risk Factors

  • History of violent victimization

  • Attention deficits, hyperactivity, or learning disorders

  • History of early aggressive behaviour

  • Involvement with drugs, alcohol, or tobacco

  • Low IQ

  • Poor behavioral control

  • Deficits in social cognitive or information-processing abilities

  • High emotional distress

  • History of treatment for emotional problems

  • Antisocial beliefs and attitudes

  • Exposure to violence and conflict in the family


Family Risk Factors

  • Authoritarian childrearing attitudes

  • Harsh, lax, or inconsistent disciplinary practices

  • Low parental involvement

  • Low emotional attachment to parents or caregivers

  • Low parental education and income

  • Parental substance abuse or criminality

  • Poor family functioning - domestic violence

  • Poor monitoring and supervision of children


Peer and Social Risk Factors

  • Association with delinquent peers Involvement in gangs

  • Social rejection by peers

  • Lack of involvement in conventional activities

  • Poor academic performance

  • Low commitment to school and school failure


Community Risk Factors

  • Diminished economic opportunities

  • High concentrations of poor residents

  • High level of transiency

  • High level of family disruption

  • Low levels of community participation

  • Socially disorganized neighborhoods

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