Parenting and Youth Violence

Youth Shelters

Among urban youth, violence is a major concern. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2013, 24.7% of high school students nationwide reported being involved in at least one physical fight in the past year. Couple this with an annual homicide rate among 10–24 year-olds of almost 5,000, and the severity of the problem becomes clear.

Change starts at home. It is important for parents to discourage violence in their children. While school bullying is a significant problem (19.6% of students reported being physically bullied in 2013), children should not be encouraged to fight back. Using violence to combat violence only perpetuates the cycle. A better alternative is to find constructive ways to handle interpersonal conflicts, through mediated discussion or other avenues.

Parents using corporal punishment to discipline their children also contribute to the prevalence of youth violence, according to several studies. Using violence and physical punishment to solve disputes at home indicates to children that violence is a normal and accepted way of dealing with problems, knowledge that they will incorporate into other facets of their lives. Instead of resorting to corporal punishment, parents should discuss problems with their children through clear channels of communication, providing an example of proper conflict management.

Finally, parents who promote good performance in school take steps to diminish the likelihood of violence in their children. Students who excel in the classroom have been proven to be less likely to commit violent or criminal acts, and a good education helps to prevent other social issues such as teen pregnancy, poverty, homelessness, and drug abuse.

Several studies have confirmed that parents who follow these strategies at home equip their children with the skills necessary to succeed. Both boys and girls have a significantly higher likelihood of engaging in violent activity if they come from homes where risk factors take place. When children experience violence, they are more likely to view further violence as a fact of life and will be desensitized to the issue in the future.

Effective parenting is a necessary step toward preventing the spread of violence in youth. Adults should encourage and promote positive relationships in their charges, both between children and adults and among peers. Promoting positive relationships will also have a positive impact on gun violence, substance abuse, and emotional distress in teens. By strengthening family ties, parents will have greater influence in the lives of their children, consequently reducing the prevalence of violence among young people.

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