Teen Violence

Teen violence is a growing problem in the U.S. Negative behaviors: drug use, bullying, and gang involvement often lead to violent behaviors. Learn about teen violence statistics, risk factors for teen violence, and tips for preventing teen violence.

Teen violence is a serious problem in the US, leading to thousands of injuries and deaths each year, as well as emotional damage in victims and offenders. Though not every instance of teen violence can be prevented, there are things parents can do to reduce the risk of teen violence occuring, and to get help for teens who are the victims or perpetrators of teen violence.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, youth violence is the second leading cause of teen death in the US. Over 5,000 young people are murdered each year, and about 720,000 more are injured so seriously from teen violence, that they need to visit the emergency room. About a third of teens are involved in fights at school, bullying or other forms of teen violence. Even those students who do not receive serious injuries from teen violence are often left with emotional scars, and are at increased risk for other negative behaviors, including substance abuse and suicide.

Some of the teen violence risk factors include:

  • Prior exposure to violence or abuse in the family, neighborhood, or even through the media
  • Using drugs, alcohol, or tobacco
  • Gang involvement or being associated with peers who engage in criminal behavior
  • Family problems, such as job loss, divorce, or losing a parent or family member
  • Doing poorly in school
  • Coming from a poor community
  • Aggressive behavior and poor skills for non-violent problem solving
  • Access to weapons
  • Brain injury

Not every teen who faces these risk factors will become violent, but they may need violence intervention to reduce the chances that they will be victims or perpetuators of teen violence.

There are many prevention strategies that parents and other concerned adults can use to help reduce the chances that a teen will be a victim of teen violence:

  • Don't ignore aggressive or violent behavior, even in younger children; it indicates a problem that needs to be addressed. Get help by talking to a doctor or counselor. If you don't have insurance, talk to a community health center about options available to you.
  • Get family counseling for families that are struggling
  • Seek individual counseling for youth who need help with aggression or have been victims of abuse or violence
  • Set a good example for teens of non-violent problem solving
  • Find an adult mentor for at-risk teens to give them a positive role model
  • Monitor the teen's media exposure and don't allow violent TV, movies, web sites, or video games. This may mean having a family TV and computer and keeping TVs and computers out of teens’ bedrooms. Talk to teens about the real life consequences of the types of violence they see in the media and teen violence.
  • Set clear rules with fair consequences and enforce them consistently. Don't be overly lenient or harsh in disciplining children or teens. Consider creating a behavior contract as a family that outlines rules and consequences, and have all the family members sign it.
  • Ask lots of questions about teens’ activities and have them call you of they will be going somewhere other than where they told you.
  • Try to spend positive family time together everyday, even just for a short time. Make sure teens know that you care about them. Tell them that you love them.
  • Get help for teens struggling in school, and emphasize the importance of getting an education.

The sooner you can intervene for a youth who is at risk for teen violence or has violent behaviors, the better. Don't be embarrassed to ask for help from medical professionals or to get counseling; teen violence is a serious problem, and it is often more than parents can handle on their own.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, "Understanding Youth Violence: Fact Sheet" [online]

National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center, "Risk and Protective Factors for Youth Violence Fact Sheet" [online]

American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, "Understanding Violent Behavior in Children and Adolescents" [online]

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