The University of Colorado’s Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence has recently completed the first year of a 5-year study which is funded by a $6 million grant from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The study has the purpose of identifying key risk factors which promote violence among adolescents, and it is being carried out with the goal of reducing youth violence and related problematic behaviors among children between the ages of 10 and 17 by 2016. It has, evidently, already made great strides towards achieving this goal, despite the fact that the researchers are only 20 percent of the way to the completion of the study.
According to the announcement of their preliminary findings, they have discovered a few of the most prevalent conditions which make it more likely that a child will end up becoming involved in some type of violent behavior later in adolescence. By further examining the study findings in order to better understand their ramifications and developing strategies for their implementation, the researchers hope to make a meaningful difference in the lives of the youth and other members of communities across the country which are plagued by violence.
The study is using as a subject the Montbello neighborhood northeast of Denver. The area is notorious for crime and gang activity, with gang violence and one-on-one fights being so commonplace as to make them a fact of life for a large percentage of people in the community. Montbello has been especially hard-hit by the recent economic depression, to the degree that houses are selling for as little as $75,000 in this area which has assumed the status of “inner-city” for Denver despite the fact that it is on the outskirts of the city. The researchers cast a wide net for collecting information, with 800 door-to-door surveys and interviews with more than 2,000 students in the 4th through the 12 grades. Out of all the youths who were interviewed, nearly a quarter stated that they had been involved in some type of violent behavior at the age of 10 or 11, while 6 percent admitted to having used drugs at the same age. More than a quarter of high school students and nearly one out of five middle school students reported that some of their classmates were involved in a gang. Clearly, Montbello is a community where violence is rampant among the youth and one which is in need of solutions for prevention.
Among the most important results of these surveys, they found that children who are raised in chaotic households and are exposed at an early age to violence and substance abuse are far more likely to become involved in violence when they reach young-adulthood. Other key risk factors which were isolated include:
● Persistent negative behaviors at early age
● Poor family management such as having absentee parents or lacking one parent
● Family conflict including verbal and emotional strife at home and domestic violence
● Having peers who engage in negative behavior
Solutions For Preventing Violence Among Adolescents
A local Baptist pastor who participated in the first year of the study was interviewed on the topic by The Denver Post, and he stated that the study findings are valuable inasmuch as they confirm the general perception that this is the case. He and others in the community already were of the opinion that substance abuse and exposure to violence at an early age were most likely predisposing factors for later violent behavior, but seeing the correlation in statistical data provides confirmation.
The study data are only as valuable, however, as they prove to be useful in helping to find solutions to prevent future violence. Community leaders in Montbello are already planning to convene to discuss strategies for implementing the findings of the study. A final discovery which they would do well to make great use of is the fact that religiosity was found to be the strongest buffer to prevent adolescents from becoming involved in violence.
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