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Youth Violence: Fact Sheet



Youth violence is an important public health problem that results in deaths and injuries. The following statistics provide an overview of youth violence in the United States.


  • Direct and indirect costs of youth violence (e.g., medical, lost productivity, quality of life) exceed $158 billion every year (Children's Safety Network Economics & Data Analysis Resource Center 2000).
  • In a nationwide survey of high school students, about 6% reported not going to school on one or more days in the 30 days preceding the survey because they felt unsafe at school or on their way to and from school (CDC 2004).
  • In addition to causing injury and death, youth violence affects communities by increasing the cost of health care, reducing productivity, decreasing property values, and disrupting social services (Mercy et al. 2002).

Groups at Risk

  • Among 10 to 24 year olds, homicide is the leading cause of death for African Americans, the second leading cause of death for Hispanics, and the third leading cause of death for American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Asian/Pacific Islanders (CDC 2006).
  • Of the 5,570 homicides reported in 2003 among 10 to 24 year olds, 86% were males and 14% were females (CDC 2005).
  • Male students are more likely to be involved in a physical fight than female students (41% vs. 25%; CDC 2004).

Risk Factors

Research on youth violence has increased our understanding of factors that make some populations more vulnerable to victimization and perpetration. Many risk factors are the same, in part, because of the overlap among victims and perpetrators of violence.

Risk factors increase the likelihood that a young person will become violent. However, risk factors are not direct causes of youth violence; instead, risk factors contribute to youth violence (Mercy et al. 2002; DHHS 2001).

Research associates the following risk factors with perpetration of youth violence (DHHS 2001; Lipsey and Derzon 1998; Resnick et al. 2004):

Individual Risk Factors

  • History of violent victimization or involvement
  • Attention deficits, hyperactivity, or learning disorders
  • History of early aggressive behavior
  • Involvement with drugs, alcohol, or tobacco
  • Low IQ
  • Poor behavioral control
  • Deficits in social cognitive or information-processing abilities
  • High emotional distress
  • History of treatment for emotional problems
  • Antisocial beliefs and attitudes
  • Exposure to violence and conflict in the family

Family Risk Factors

  • Authoritarian childrearing attitudes
  • Harsh, lax, or inconsistent disciplinary practices
  • Low parental involvement
  • Low emotional attachment to parents or caregivers
  • Low parental education and income
  • Parental substance abuse or criminality
  • Poor family functioning
  • Poor monitoring and supervision of children

Peer/School Risk Factors

  • Association with delinquent peers
  • Involvement in gangs
  • Social rejection by peers
  • Lack of involvement in conventional activities
  • Poor academic performance
  • Low commitment to school and school failure

Community Risk Factors

  • Diminished economic opportunities
  • High concentrations of poor residents
  • High level of transiency
  • High level of family disruption
  • Low levels of community participation
  • Socially disorganized neighborhoods

For more information on measures to assess risks for youth violence, see Measuring Violence-Related Attitudes, Behaviors, and Influences Among Youths: A Compendium of Assessment Tools – Second Edition.

Protective Factors

Protective factors buffer young people from risks of becoming violent. These factors exist at various levels. To date, protective factors have not been studied as extensively or rigorously as risk factors. However, identifying and understanding protective factors are equally as important as researching risk factors.

Most research is preliminary. Studies propose the following protective factors (DHHS 2001; Resnick et al. 2004):

Individual Protective Factors

  • Intolerant attitude toward deviance
  • High IQ or high grade point average
  • Positive social orientation
  • Religiosity

Family Protective Factors

  • Connectedness to family or adults outside of the family
  • Ability to discuss problems with parents
  • Perceived parental expectations about school performance are high
  • Frequent shared activities with parents
  • Consistent presence of parent during at least one of the following: when awakening, when arriving home from school, at evening mealtime, and when going to bed
  • Involvement in social activities

Peer/School Protective Factors

  • Commitment to school
  • Involvement in social activities


Anderson MA, Kaufman J, Simon TR, Barrios L, Paulozzi L, Ryan G, et al. School-associated violent deaths in the United States, 1994–1999. Journal of the American Medical Association 2001;286:2695–702.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) [online]. (2006) [cited 2006 Feb 8]. Available from: URL:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Youth risk behavior surveillance—United States, 2003. MMWR 2004;53(SS02):1–96.

Children's Safety Network Economics & Data Analysis Resource Center. State costs of violence perpetrated by youth. Available from: URL:

Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Youth violence: a report of the Surgeon General [online]; 2001. Available from URL:

Lipsey MW, Derzon JH. Predictors of violent and serious delinquency in adolescence and early adulthood: a synthesis of longitudinal research. In: Loeber R, Farrington DP, editors. Serious and violent juvenile offenders: risk factors and successful interventions. Thousand Oaks (CA): Sage Publications; 1998. p. 86−105.

Mercy J, Butchart A, Farrington D, Cerdá M. Youth violence. In: Krug E, Dahlberg LL, Mercy JA, et al., editors. The world report on violence and health. Geneva (Switzerland): World Health Organization; 2002. p. 25−56.

Nansel TR, Overpeck M, Pilla RS, Ruan WJ, Simons-Morton B, Scheidt P. Bullying behaviors among US youth: prevalence and association with psychosocial adjustment. Journal of the American Medical Association 2001;285(16):2094−100.

Resnick MD, Ireland M, Borowsky I. Youth violence perpetration: what protects? What predicts? Findings from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Journal of Adolescent Health 2004;35:424.e1−e10.

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Page last modified: April 19, 2007