Skip Navigation LinksViolence: Bullying > Teen Violence

Violence is a learned behavior.  Children learn violent behaviors from their family and peers, as well as observe it in their neighborhoods and in the community at large.  These behaviors are reinforced by what youth see on television, on the Internet, in video games, movies, music videos, and what they hear in their music.

When children are disciplined with severe corporal punishment or verbal abuse, or when they are physically or sexually abused, or when they witness such behavior in their home, it is not surprising that they behave violently toward others.

Research studies have shown that violent behavior can be decreased or even prevented if these risk factors are significantly reduced or eliminated:

Most importantly, efforts should be directed at dramatically decreasing the exposure of children and adolescents to violence in the home, community, and through the media. 

As an individual is exposed to more risk factors, the probability that he or she will engage in violent behavior increases.  Clearly, violence leads to violence.

Warning Signs
Get help quickly if your child is exhibiting these warning signs for potential violence:

  • threats of violence, either verbal or written
  • past violent or aggressive behavior (including uncontrollable angry outbursts)
  • access to guns or other weapons
  • bringing a weapon to school
  • past suicide attempts or threats
  • family history of violent behavior or suicide attempts
  • blaming others and/or unwilling to accept responsibility for one's own actions
  • recent experience of humiliation, shame, loss, or rejection
  • bullyingor intimidating peers or younger children
  • being a victim of abuse (physical, sexual, emotional, neglect)
  • witnessing abuse or violence in the home
  • themes of death or depression repeatedly evident in conversation, written expressions, reading selections, or artwork
  • preoccupation with themes and acts of violence in TV shows, movies, music, magazines, comics, books, video games, and Internet sites
  • mental illness, such as depression, mania, psychosis, or bipolar disorder
  • use of alcohol or illicit drugs
  • disciplinary problems at school or in the community (delinquent behavior)
  • past destruction of property or vandalism
  • cruelty to animals
  • firesetting behavior
  • poor peer relationships and/or social isolation
  • involvement with cults or gangs
  • little or no supervision or support from parents or other caring adult
  • a sense of entitlement -- believing he/she should get what he/she wants at whatever expense

Typically, the greater the number of these warning signs present, the greater the risk.  It is important to realize, however, that many children exhibit these warning signs and never resort to violence. Even so, these signs can be a cue that something is wrong, and your child needs help.

Guns and Violence
As a precaution, make sure that your child does not have access to firearms, and remove other dangerous materials or objects from your home.

If there is a gun in your home, it must be kept out of reach of your children and their friends.

The gun must also be kept safe from family members who are depressed, abusive to others or abusing drugs (including alcohol), or who have Alzheimer's disease.

If there is a gun in your home, keep it unloaded and locked away, separate from the bullets, with the key available only to responsible adults.

Teenagers often act without thinking first.  When teenagers are angry or depressed, they are more likely to kill themselves or harm themselves or others if they can easily get a gun.

It's best not to have a gun in your home at all if someone who lives there is depressed or thinking of suicide, or is a troubled teenager.

If you have a gun in your home, you are 5 times more likely to have a suicide in your house than homes without a gun.  An unlocked gun could be the death of your family.

Get Help
If you are concerned about your child possibly committing violence, you need to arrange for him or her to be seen by a qualified mental health professional.

Look for a child/family mental health professional who is experienced in working with adolescents and their families. 

The goals of treatment typically focus on helping the teen to:

  • learn how to control anger
  • express anger and frustrations in appropriate ways
  • be responsible for his/her actions
  • accept consequences
  • address family conflicts, school problems, and community issues

Information provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center, and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

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