Blog: violence

Study Finds Early Intervention Crucial In Preventing Future Delinquent Behavior

A new study from the National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence[PDF] (NatSCEV) underscores the importance for early intervention of childhood exposure to violence to prevent these children from future delinquency (also referred to in other studies as “bullying”). This study offers a new look at the relationship between victimization and delinquency for children 10 to 17 years-old and through four different categories:

  • Primarily delinquent behavior and not victims
  • Primarily victims and no delinquent behavior
  • Both delinquent behavior and victims
  • Neither victims nor delinquent behavior

Delinquency includes violent behavior, drug and alcohol use, and actions that involve property destruction, such as stealing or breaking property. Research has found that boys and girls experience and react to violence differently, and this study is no exception. Boys in the delinquent behavior and victim group experienced much more victimization in the past year than boys in the primarily victim group. In addition, these boys also had more delinquent behavior than the primarily delinquent behavior group.
Girls had different patterns in their behavior. Most girls were neither victims nor acted out with delinquency (as opposed to boys, who mostly engaged in delinquent behavior), and the second biggest group of girls were primarily victims. This information reflects that girls tend to engage in less delinquency than boys. However, like boys, the girls that were victims and engaged in delinquent behavior had greater levels of victimization and delinquency than girls that were either primarily victims or acted out with delinquency. These boys and girls that behaved with delinquency and were victims often experience more mental health symptoms and life adversities and receive less social support than other groups.

Kids Demand A Plan Beyond Gun Control

Weeks after a gunman killed 20 elementary-school students and six educators in Newtown, CT, yet another school shooting occurred at Taft Union High School in Taft, California. On January 10, a high school student brought a firearm to class and injured another student and a teacher. The shooting, which took place just hours after a staff safety training, has left many moms, like me, wondering what can be done to keep our kids safe in school.

After spending years trying to prevent school tragedies with Peace Over Violence, it seems that I should have something profound to say. To my surprise, I was at a loss for words, and that is when I turned to the youth.

Violence Prevention: Evidence-Based Practices and Community Involvement

Contrary to what many people believe, mass shooters and other killers aren’t born, they’re created.
Violence is preventable, though maybe not totally avoidable. As shown by a growing body of scientific research, interventions that address the underlying causes of violent behavior and victimization are effective in preventing new instances of violence. There are programs and strategies that, if implemented correctly, reliably and significantly reduce youth crime.
Policy makers, practitioners and families that are committed to reducing violence must invest in potentially effective practices to the extent there are means of determining effectiveness. Making use of evidence-based interventions already at hand could potentially contribute to a reduction in violence and save billions of dollars by preventing or mitigating factors that would otherwise require expensive interventions after the fact.
To prevent violence and reduce its consequences it is necessary to understand the causes of violence. A major finding of national and international reports on violence is that no single factor explains why one individual, family, community or society is more or less likely to experience violence. Instead, it shows that violence is rooted in the interaction of factors ranging from the biological to the political. An ecological approach to prevention of violence targets the categories of risk factors for violence at four interacting levels: the individual, relational, community context and societal factors

Task Force Recommendations to End Children's Exposure to Violence

In December 2012, Attorney General Eric Holder's National Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence released a report with recommendations to combat the growing epidemic of kids exposed to violence. Given recent events and the public discourse over violence, now is an especially poignant time to revisit this report and its recommendations.

"Exposure to violence is a national crisis that affects approximately two out of every three of our children," states the report. "Of the 76 million children currently residing in the United States, an estimated 46 million can expect to have their lives touched by violence, crime, abuse, and psychological trauma this year."

Collaboration is Key to Addressing Childhood Exposure to Violence

Childhood exposure to violence - conventional crime, child maltreatment, sexual victimization, and community family and school violence - is pervasive in the U.S. The National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence (NatSCEV) found that 8 percent of respondents of the survey, called polyvictims, had experienced seven or more types of victimization in the previous year.
Exposure to violence, substance abuse and involvement with the juvenile justice system often occur in the same high-risk groups and have serious consequences for the safety of all family members and the larger community. Behaviors such as fighting, running away, cutting school and/or substance abuse are some of the more challenging behaviors for the educational, child welfare and juvenile justice systems. But inability to pay attention, depression and poor self-esteem can be equally problematic for youth and their families.

New Study Finds That Exposure to Violence Affects Girls and Boys Differently

Gender Differences in the Longitudinal Impact of Exposure to Violence on Mental Health in Urban Youth (abstract). Journal of Youth and Adolescence, Vol. 40, No. 12, December 2011.
What it’s about: This study examined differences in the mental health symptoms experienced by boys and girls who have been exposed to violence. Researchers surveyed 615 Chicago-area young people about their mental health at age 14 and again at age 16.
Why read it: Most research on young people’s exposure to violence reports broadly on the negative ways witnessing and experiencing violence affect their mental health. This study is more specific, exploring particular symptoms, including post-traumatic stress disorder and dissociation. Prior research shows that homeless youth suffer from these problems more often than other youth, so this study may be of particular interest to staff of runaway and homeless youth programs.
This is also one of few studies to look at how girls and boys experience these mental health problems differently.
Biggest takeaways for youth workers: Boys reported more exposure to violence than girls on average. Girls who had experienced violence were more likely than boys to experience dissociation. This symptom leads youth to detach themselves from their emotions, bodies or immediate surroundings.

From a Violent Childhood to the MLB: Joe Torre on Need to Reduce Children's Exposure to Violence

Baseball fans know Joe Torre as a former MLB catcher and MLB manager. But they may know not that he was exposed to violence as a child, an experience that played a major role in shaping his life. He recently wrote an op-ed in the Miami Herald, explaining why preventing children's exposure to violence is so important to him.
He writes:

I was the youngest of five kids who grew up in an abusive home. My father, a New York City police officer, physically abused my mother and emotionally abused us all. My older siblings protected me from the violence, but they couldn’t shield me from the fear. Baseball became my shelter — the place to which I escaped to feel safe.
I didn’t know until decades later how much the way I felt about myself had been shaped by that fear. More than just fear, though, I felt shame, as well. As a kid, I was embarrassed by the belief that my house was the only one where things like this were happening. I worried that I had done something to cause the problem, and felt ashamed that I couldn’t stop it. As an adult, it took counseling for me to see myself as the innocent child I really had been, and to understand how deeply the violence I had witnessed affected me.

Because of these traumatic experiences, Joe and his wife founded the Joe Torre Safe At Home Foundation, which provides education and safe rooms in middle schools for kids caught in an abusive environment. Joe also serves as co-chair of Attorney General Eric Holder's National Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence, which is part of the DOJ's Defending Childhood Initiative.

Reassessing School Safety in Light of Monday's School Shooting Tragedy in Ohio

As policymakers and the general public grapple with responding to and making sense of Monday's tragic shooting in Ohio, the Justice Policy Institute, which has studied school violence prevention for more than a decade, emphasizes that communities should increase the use of practices proven to keep schools safe, and avoid ineffective policies that would lead to worse outcomes for youth and communities.

"Yesterday was a tragic day in Ohio, and for all of us who want safe schools, and safe communities for our young people," stated Tracy Velázquez, Executive Director of the Justice Policy Institute. "As we all try to understand how and why an event like this happened, we need to soberly reflect on what really works to reduce school-violence and help at-risk kids before something goes wrong, and resist the temptation to seek solutions that sound tough, but are ineffective."

Based on recent research conducted by JPI and leading educational researchers, practices proven to improve school safety include the following:

  • Implement evidence-based initiatives proven to improve safety in schools: School districts should work toward abandoning zero tolerance and law enforcement responses to student behavior and begin relying on evidence-based programs that include peer mediation, mentoring and peaceable education.
  • Hire more counselors: Guidance counselors and school psychologists are trained to be mentors and work with youth, and are a positive investment in schools. However, schools are not fully staffing according to accepted standards. The American School Counselor Association says that school counselors should consider their roles to include skills in conflict-resolution particular to schools, to intervene in cases of bullying and harassment, and to prevent and intervene in cases where there might be substance abuse issues or the potential for violence. Fully implemented guidance counselor programs have also been found to promote feelings of safety in both poorer and wealthier schools.
  • Invest in education over an increased justice system responses to student behavior: With the array of negative collateral consequences associated with involvement in the juvenile justice system, it is important that policymakers and administrators focus efforts to better our education system as opposed to relying on increased justice system interventions. Some ways to both improve student achievement and promote safer schools include increased hiring of quality teachers, staff, counselors, and other positive role models; building safe, clean schools; and providing training and supports for teachers and staff related to behavior management.
  • Avoid policies that will make schools less safe, and harm kids: Unnecessary referrals to the juvenile justice system disrupt a student's educational process - practices that can lead to suspension, expulsion, or other alienation from school. These negative effects set youth on a track to drop out of school and put them at greater risk of becoming involved in the justice system later on, all at tremendous costs to the youth themselves, their families, their communities and to taxpayers. More police in schools, including School Resource Officers (SROs) have not been shown to create more safety, and can have negative impacts both on school environment and on youth, as schools rely on arrests rather than school-based responses, pulling youth into the justice system.

Interested in Participating in the Defending Childhood Task Force Public Hearing in Miami?

Calling all community members and professionals working with children and families who have experienced violence:
The Attorney General's National Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence is holding its third public hearing in Miami on March 19 - 21, 2012. The hearing will focus on children's exposure to violence in their communities and at school. The Taskforce is interested in hearing from community members and professionals who work with children and families who have experienced violence. They would also like to hear from individuals directly impacted by violence. Members of the public are invited to attend and testify. Those outside of Miami are invited to submit testimoy now through April 24, 2012.
To register for the hearing or to provide oral testimony, click here.
To submit written testimony, click here.

Attorney General Holder's new blog post: Our continuing efforts to prevent youth violence

Attorney general Eric Holder has published a new blog post about youth violence prevention, highlighting the efforts of cities participating in the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention.
Here's an excerpt:

Throughout my career, I have seen the devastating effects of youth violence far too often. As a prosecutor and a judge; as a U.S. Attorney, as Deputy Attorney General – and, above all, as the father of three teenage children – I’ve been determined to make the progress that our nation’s young people deserve.
In September of 2009, this country was shocked by a video depicting the brutal beating and murder of a 16-year-old Chicago honor student. That savage attack was seared into our collective memory, and it left an indelible mark on the community where it took place. But, tragically, it is just one horrifying example of the violence that many young people face every day, in cities and towns across this country.
In response to this crisis, last year, President Obama directed the Departments of Justice and Education to partner with other federal agencies – and with representatives from six cities – to launch the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention, a network of committed stakeholders dedicated to stopping the brutality and bloodshed that devastates too many of the youngest members of our society. The six cities participating in the Forum — Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Memphis, Salinas, Calif. and San Jose, Calif. — have made great strides toward developing and implementing comprehensive crime prevention strategies tailored to eradicating the violence that has ravaged their communities and stolen so many promising futures.

New juvenile victimization questionnaire released

The Crimes Against Children Research Center has released its Juvenile Victimization Questionnaire.
A supplemental tool to the National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence (NatSCEV), the questionnaire attempts to document the full range of victimization that youth experience, including conventional crime, maltreatment, peer and sibling victimization, sexual victimization, witnessing, and other exposure to violence. Moreover, it aims to help practitioners determine youth’s needs, assess whether victimization programs are effective, raise awareness on youth victimization, and improve victimization research.
NatSCEV is the largest, most comprehensive survey on youth victimization conducted in the United States.
Multiple versions of the JVQ-R2 questionnaire is free and available online here.
Click here to view and download other publications from the National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence series.