Youth violence has become particularly challenging to law enforcement agencies and healthcare organizations due to the range of individual, social, and legal implications. After being subjected to violence from his or her peers, a young person may develop physical or mental issues that may subsequently harm their relationships with parents or cause tensions within their communities. This paper will focus on identifying implications of youth violence as well as their connections to possible risk factors that cause young people to develop aggression and become violent.
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Youth violence is associated with harmful actions and behaviors that may appear in children in the early stages of their development and continue exasperating into young adulthood. When discussing the implications of youth violence, a young person may be a victim, a witness, or an offender who committed a violent act. Whenever the role is, the outcomes of violence can be traumatic for anyone, with individual, community, social, and legal consequences having a tremendous impact on the young person.
According to the fact sheet prepared by World Health Organization (2016), youth violence presents a challenge to the global health and legal organizations because it encompasses a variety of acts that range from verbal abuse to homicide; thus, there is a challenge as to how the problem should be addressed with regards to all types of violent behaviors instead of dealing with some and disregarding others. World Health Organization (2016) reported that there are 200 000 homicides (43% of the total number of homicides) that occur worldwide each year among the youth aged 10-29. 83% of youth homicide victims are male (World Health Organization, 2016).
Youth violence is one of the main reasons for victims sustaining physical injuries. Apart from compromised physical functioning, youth violence may make a lifelong impact on the psychological and social functioning of an individual. Sexual assault is another category of youth violence that leads to such damages – from 3 to 24% of women participating in the WHO Multi-country study on women’s health and domestic violence indicated that their first experience of sexual relationships was forced by the partner (World Health Organization, 2016). Therefore, youth violence is an issue encompassing a range of behavioral aspects that should be studied in great detail to come up with solutions to how the identified problems can be addressed.
Individual Implications of Youth Violence
According to the study conducted by Rappaport and Thomas (2004), violent behavior rarely occurs spontaneously; it usually has a long pathway of development. In some cases, aggression and exhibition of violence show up in response to stress that occurred in the vulnerable for the individual period of development. Nevertheless, aggressive behavior that occurs in childhood is likely to continue in the adolescence and adulthood. Conduct issues, antisocial behavior, and aggression make up from third to a half of all referrals of children and adolescents to psychiatric clinics. While the evaluation of individual risk factors is crucial to understanding the implications of youth violence, there is always a certain level of complexity that requires further research to get a better understanding of poor behaviors to create effective interventions.
Individual Risk and Immediate Relationships Risk Factors
Regarding the individual characteristics of a person, youth violence is associated with personal risk factors that influence the likelihood of a young individual being involved in violent behavior. These risk factors include behavioral disorders, early involvement with abusing harmful substances such as drugs and alcohol, lack of educational proficiency and low intelligence, lack of commitment to school, exposure to violent behaviors within the family, prior involvement in a crime, as well as unemployment (World Health Organization, 2016).
The risk factors within close relationships include low family income and unemployment, lack of child supervision and inadequate disciplinary practices, no attachment between children and their parents, lack of family involvement in school or extra-curriculum activities, abuse of harmful substances within the family, gang membership, and association with criminal peers (World Health Organization, 2016).
Impact of Violence on Youth
If a child or a young person has become a victim of youth violence, there is a high probability that the event will not go unnoticed. Apart from physical injuries, victimization leaves emotional scars in young people, especially when they are at a vulnerable age when they cannot fully control their feelings yet. Among the emotional consequences, the most prominent one is the loss of feeling of safety and security, which triggers defense mechanisms in children, so they become more likely to become violent themselves. As found by the Centre of Excellence for Early Childhood Development (2011), violence begets violence, and young people who were previously victimized can potentially become involved in the cycle of aggression, delinquency, abuse, and violent crime.
Exposure to violence has been proven to have a direct impact on the development of mental health problems. Anxiety, depression, and posttraumatic stress disorder have been found as the most prevalent implications of youth violence. Furthermore, many young people can experience these symptoms in combination. According to the findings of the study conducted by Kilpatrick, Smith, and Saunders (2007), nearly half of responding males that were diagnosed with PTSD also had comorbid depression while a third reported comorbid use disorder. Among the responding girls, a third of respondents had substance use disorder accompanying PTSD while two-thirds were dealing with comorbid depression (Kilpatrick et al., 2007).
Symptoms of Posttraumatic stress disorder have been found to have connections to violence where a higher intensity of exposure is associated with increased expression of the symptoms. In adolescence, symptoms of PTSD can reveal themselves as behaviors of young people that react with hyper-arousal and aggression to possible threats. On the other hand, the symptoms can manifest themselves as internalizing behaviors where young people appear sad or withdrawn. Furthermore, studies on youth psychology found that after being exposed to violence, young boys and men tend to resort to violence and aggression while girls tend to become introverted and depressed.
Community Implications of Youth Violence
As individual implications and risk factors of youth violence were discussed, it is important to examine community factors that can hurt a young person’s behavior. The risk factors of youth violence within the community include easy access to alcohol and firearms, poverty, income inequality between the lowest and highest-earning layers of the society, poor quality of a country’s governance (for example, inadequate policies for social and educational protection of the “at-risk” youth) (World Health Organization, 2016).
Gangs and Peers
Association with delinquent peers can hurt the level of aggression of young people. On the other hand, association with peers that do not approve antisocial behaviors can potentially decrease the levels of aggression. Therefore, there is a direct relationship between the nature and the quality of the social environment that surrounds a young person and the development of the either high or low level of aggression. As mentioned by Rappaport and Thomas (2004), there is a strong association between gang involvement of young people and their increased violence.
Youth involvement in gangs implies some adverse consequences that vary in severity and longevity. Namely, young people involved in gangs are at risk of becoming school dropouts, teenage parents, unemployed, drug or alcohol addicts. Moreover, there is a high chance that they will commit petty crimes and more violent offenses, become victims of crimes, or be convicted and incarcerated in correctional facilities.
Impact on Communities
Studies focusing on the connections between individual behavior and environmental factors showed that young people are much more prone to exhibiting violent behavior in poverty-stricken neighborhoods. While the analysis of the family system is one of the primary components of predicting an individual’s behavior, the review of the neighborhood characteristics can also bring insightful knowledge as to how environmental factors impact youth violence. As mentioned by Rappaport and Thomas (2004), the residential stability of neighborhoods along with parents’ engagement in supervising the youth and maintaining order in the area significantly decreases the likelihood of violence within the small community. Based on this statement, it can be hypothesized that the exposure to violence and the lack of parents’ supervision increase the possibility of youth violence in a neighborhood.
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Community residents usually have a fear of violent youth that exhibits troublesome behavior due to the risk of victimization (Weisel, 2002). Therefore, youth violence negatively influences the community, often resorting to intimidation of non-violent youth and children residing in the area. This, in turn, can cause tensions between parents whose children conflict with each other, contributing to the overall instability in the community. Tensions between parents in a community are especially true for adults that do not pay enough attention to their violent children and let them do whatever they desire.
Legal Implications of Youth Violence
Predicting possible misconduct of the youth in a particular setting or area can be a useful tool for identifying potentially violent students before they cause any harm to the community. Therefore, profiling is used to identify individuals that are likely to commit a criminal act. Predicting violent behaviors among youth presents several ethical concerns, especially in the school context. Such concerns are associated with validity, the usage of a profile as evidence in social sciences, the possibility of bias or discrimination, search and seizure, as well as implications for privacy (Bailey, n.d.).
As opposed to the context of an investigation, in the majority of cases, profile evidence is not considered admissible in court for establishing a person’s guilt because the profile evidence serves as a type of character evidence, which is not favored in courts, except in specific situations characteristic of certain cases. As a rule, a profile is composed of factors that work in combination with one another; if these factors are analyzed separately, it is possible to select almost any individual in a given context who will be innocent of any wrongful acts. It is important to mention that successful profiling depends on factors such as accuracy, profile sensitivity, and the connection between these factors.
Juvenile courts deal with cases of criminal defendants aged 18 and younger. These defendants are not tried in the presence of a jury; instead, the judge is provided with the necessary information and evidence presented by a prosecutor and make a decision whether a defendant was guilty of a crime. When a young individual is found or pleads guilty of a criminal act, the youth court proceeds with determining a suitable sentence. Specific provisions on sentencing were outlined by the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act; such requirements differ from those related to sentencing adults. The key principle associated with youth sentencing is that the given sentence must be suitable (proportionate) to the severity of the act and the extent to which the young person was responsible. Juvenile courts in the United States offer juvenile offenders a variety of sentencing options (disposition orders) that are differentiated into two key categories of incarceration and non-incarceration, and there are many punishment options for each category.
About the incarceration of juvenile offenders, the severity and impact of the committed crime usually dictate the level of punishment. For instance, in house arrest or home confinement, a judge makes an order for the minor to stay within the territorial boundaries of his or her home with exceptions for visiting an educational facility and counseling. On the other hand, a convicted offender can be ordered to stay in a juvenile detention center, secured juvenile facility, or adult jail; each type of incarceration depends on the seriousness of the case. For example, if a young person was convicted of second-degree murder, he or she is more likely to be sentenced to stay in state prison.
Non-incarceration methods of punishment are used in less severe cases when there is a possibility that an offender could benefit from rehabilitation. The options for non-incarceration include counseling, probation, electronic monitoring, community service, fine, or a verbal warning.
Role of Saint Leo University’s Core Values to Victimization
The core values of Saint Leo University include excellence, community, respect, personal development, responsible stewardship, and integrity. These values are targeted at ensuring that students acquire new skills, develop a strong sense of community, value and respect the dignity of others, developmentally, adopt the practice of serving the community, as well as exercise honesty and consistency. It can be concluded that the values expressed by the University are targeted at creating a student-centered environment with a strong sense of community and mutual support. While such an approach can be considered beneficial in terms of promoting a positive environment in an educational facility, there is a lack of understanding that victimization is a significant problem for any environment that implies everyday interactions among young people. Promoting the sense of community and respect for the dignity of other people is a noble endeavor; however, the core values do not acknowledge issues that can exist in the University, which can result in tensions between students or even violence.
It is the job of the University’s management to acknowledge the negative aspects of studying in a tight community and educate students on the importance of not overlooking violence and victimization where it exists. The core values provide students with excellent guidelines as to how they can structure their time and social interactions within the educational facility. Although, as with anything in life, there will be conflicts and there will be instances of victimization, so students must be sure that they will be protected by their community as well as that they can protect others who require help and support. Core values of any educational facility should acknowledge both the positive and negative implications of studying in a communal environment for students to be more educated on their rights and duties in situations that require deliberate actions to protect themselves and others from moral or physical harm.
Findings and Conclusions
The issue of youth violence remains a hot topic for further research since there is a large number of factors that influence the likelihood of aggression and violence developing in young people. It is important to assess individual, relationships, societal, and legal implications and outcomes of youth violence to develop effective methods of dealing with the problem. The educational facilities should also play a role in raising awareness of the problem of youth violence and implement best prevention practices for ensuring a safe environment for students to learn, collaborate, and improve.
It can be concluded that youth violence has harmful implications on any level of an individual’s life. Young people can suffer from depression and posttraumatic stress disorder after being exposed to violence. Moreover, it was found that boys and young men were prone to developing aggression and externalizing behavior while girls and young women were prone to becoming depresses and internalizing behaviors. Social implications of youth violence include tension within communities, especially between parents of conflicting children. As any offenses, youth violence can be punished by law, with the type of punishment depending on the severity of an offense; moreover, a convicted youth offender that committed first-degree murder or rape can be tried in adult court and ordered to stay in an adult correctional facility.
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Centre of Excellence for Early Childhood Development. (Ed.). (2011). Encyclopedia on early childhood development (Vol. 1). Toronto, Canada: Centre of Excellence for Early Childhood Development.
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Weisel, D. (2002). The Evolution of Street Gangs: An Examination of Form and Variation. In W. Reed and S. Decker (Eds.), Responding to Gangs: Evaluation and Research (pp. 25-65). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice.
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