Violence by young people is one of the most visible
forms of violence. Both fatal and non-fatal assaults
involving young people contribute greatly to the
global burden of premature death, injury and
disability. Youth violence deeply harms not only
its victims, but also their families, friends and
There are close links between youth violence and
other forms of violence. Violent young people
frequently commit a range of crimes and display
other social and psychological problems.
THE EXTENT OF THE PROBLEM
In 2000, an estimated 199 000 youth murders took
place globally – equivalent to 565 children and
young people aged 10-29 years dying on average
each day as a result of interpersonal violence.
Rates for youth homicide, though, vary considerably by region and by country, and female rates are almost everywhere much lower than male rates.
In the decade 1985-1994, youth homicide rates
increased in many parts of the world – a growth
associated in many cases with a more frequent
use of guns as the method of attack.
For every young person killed by violence, an estimated 20-40 receive injuries that require hospital treatment.
Non-fatal violent injuries involve substantially
fewer firearm attacks than do fatal assaults and
involve a greater use of the fists, feet, knives and
Studies show that drunkenness is an important
immediate situational factor than can precipitate
Physical fighting and bullying are also common
among young people. A study of school-aged
children in 27 countries found that the majority
of 13-year-olds in most of the countries surveyed
had engaged in bullying at least some of the time.
W H AT A R E T H E M A I N R I S K
FA C T O R S F O R Y O U T H V I O L E N C E ?
The principle personality and behavioural factors
linked with youth violence are:
poor behavioural control
history of early aggressive behaviour
low educational achievement.
Influences by family and peers
The home environment is key to the development
of violent behaviour in young people. Some of
the key family factors associated with adolescent
poor supervision of children by parents and
harsh physical punishment to discipline children
parental conflict in early childhood
a low level of attachment between parents
a mother who had her first child at an early age
experiencing parental separation or divorce at
a young age
a low level of family cohesion
low socioeconomic status of the family.
Associating with delinquent peers has also been
linked to violence in young people.
Social, political and cultural factors
Gangs and a local supply of guns and drugs are
a potent mixture, increasing the likelihood of
Low levels of social cohesion within a community have been linked to higher rates of youth violence.
The quality of a country’s governance – its laws
and the extent to which they are enforced, as
well as policies for social protection – has an
important effect on violence.
Factors such as income inequality, rapid demographic changes in the youth population, and urbanization have all been positively linked
with youth violence.
Cultures that do not provide non-violent alternatives for resolving conflicts appear to have higher rates of youth violence.
as well as how to manage family conflict and
improve communication. Parent and family-based
interventions are among the most promising
strategies for producing long-term reductions in
W H AT C A N B E D O N E T O P R E V E N T
A variety of approaches have been tried to reduce
violent behaviour among young people. The most
common interventions seek to change individuals’
skills, attitudes and beliefs. These types of programmes are frequently carried out in school settings and are designed to help children and adolescents...