Teen Violence: Warning Signs

Violence is a major issue facing today's youth -- at home, at school, and in the community. At least one in 12 high school-age students is threatened or injured with a weapon each year. And statistics show that since the early 1990s, the incidence of youth violence has reached unparalleled levels in American society. Some have even called it "an epidemic." And no one can explain why. What are the warning signs? Understanding the reasons for violence and knowing what to look are the first steps toward prevention.

Reasons for Violence
What causes someone to punch, kick, stab, or even shoot someone else? There's no simple answer, but here are a few common reasons:

* Expression. For some, violence is a way to release feelings of anger or frustration.
* Manipulation. Violence is sometimes a way to control others to get what you want.
* Retaliation. Some use violence to get back at those who have hurt them.

Here are some additional factors that contribute to violent behavior:

* Peer pressure
* Need for attention and/or respect
* Feelings of low self-worth
* Childhood abuse or neglect
* Witnessing violence at home, in the community, or on television
* Access to weapons

What are the Warning Signs?
Violence is a learned behavior, which means it's something we learn from watching someone else or experiencing it firsthand. The best thing you can do is learn how to recognize the warning signs of violence and get help.

If you notice any of these urgent warning signs, get help immediately:

* Daily loss of temper and/or physical fighting
* Vandalism or property damage
* Increased use of drugs or alcohol
* Increased risk-taking behavior
* Detailed plans to commit violence
* Announcing threats or plans to hurt others
* Deliberate hurting of animals
* Carrying a weapon

If you notice any of these signs over a period of time, there's a strong potential for violence:

* A history of violent or aggressive behavior
* Serious drug or alcohol use
* Gang membership or a strong desire to be in a gang
* Fascination with weapons, especially guns
* Trouble controlling feelings like anger
* Withdrawal from friends and other normal activities
* Feelings of rejection or loneliness
* Being the victim or bullying or violence
* Decreased performance in school
* History of discipline problems or problems with authority
* Feeling disrespected, humiliated, or embarrassed
* Inability to sympathize with others

What Can You Do?
If you recognize any of these warning signs in someone else you must take action to prevent violence. First, avoid being alone with a person exhibiting any of these warning signs. Next, tell someone you trust and respect about your concerns. If you are worried about your own safety, get someone in a position of authority to protect you. Never resort to violence or use a weapon to protect yourself. Ask an experienced professional for help.

If you notice any of these warning signs in yourself, the first step is admitting you have a concern about hurting others. The next step is talking to a trusted adult, who can get you in touch with a professional experienced in dealing with teen violence. Learning to talk about your feelings can free you from the cycle of violence.

-- Beth Adamo

External Links:
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