Teen Behavior Violent

Although serious crimes of teen violence — such as school shootings — appear to be relatively infrequent, this doesn’t mean our schools are violence-free. Violent behavior in teenagers covers a wide range of activities, including:

  • Arson
  • Bullying, either verbally or physically
  • Cruelty to animals
  • Playground fights
  • Throwing things in a rage
  • Vandalism
  • Verbal abuse.

Teenagers with violent tendencies do not necessarily commit acts of violence in school. Incidents of dating violence among teens appear to be increasing. Recent research suggests that 20 percent of teenage girls have been the victims of teen dating violence, according to the Alabama Coalition Against Domestic Violence (n.d.). Gang violence is also on the rise in many communities.

Reasons for Teenage Violence

Teenagers are violent for different reasons. Many teens turn to violence as a way of manipulating their environment, particularly at school, or venting frustration that they don’t know how to cope with in a healthy manner. Peer pressure can also provoke an otherwise calm teenager to become the aggressor in a violent situation.

Teen violence often occurs as a result of learned behavior. Many of those who commit acts of school violence have witnessed adults behaving in a similar way, or have been the victims of abuse.

Other factors that may contribute to a teenager acting violently include:

  • Access to weapons in the home
  • An underlying psychological illness, such as depression or psychosis
  • Involvement in a cult or gang
  • Past experiences that result in feelings of humiliation or loss
  • Problems with alcohol or drug use.

Warning Signs of Potentially Violent Teens

For parents, recognizing the warning signs that their teenager may be committing acts of violence or considering committing violence is critical.

The following behaviors are warning signs that a teenager is contemplating violent acts:

  • Being irritable over seemingly minor issues
  • Carrying a weapon
  • Displaying cruelty to animals
  • Engaging in risk-taking behavior
  • Losing his or her temper frequently and easily
  • Threatening violence.

Getting Help for a Violent Teen

Parents who recognize these warning signs in their own child must take those signs seriously and seek assistance from a health care professional. Through family counseling and individual counseling, the teen can learn ways to cope with feelings of anger without losing control. Treatment strategies for violent teenagers also focus on teaching lessons about responsible behavior and the consequences of acting violently.

If the teen has an underlying psychological issue that is contributing to the violent behavior, a trained counselor can help identify that problem and make recommendations for treatment accordingly.

Resources

Alabama Coalition Against Domestic Violence. (n.d.). Dating violence. Retrieved August 24, 2010, from http://www.acadv.org/dating.html

American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. (2005). Children’s threats: When are they serious? Retrieved August 19, 2010, from http://www.aacap.org/cs/root/facts_for_families/childrens_threats_when_are_they_serious.

American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. (2001). Understanding violent behavior in children and adolescents. Retrieved August 19, 2010, from http://www.aacap.org/cs/root/facts_for_families/understanding_violent_behavior_in_children_and_adolescents.

American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Raising children to resist violence: What you can do. Retrieved August 19, 2010, from http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/resist-violence.aspx.

American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Warning signs of youth violence. Retrieved August 19, 2010, from http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/warning-signs.aspx#.

Focusas.com. (n.d.). Teen violence. Retrieved August 19, 2010, from http://www.focusas.com/Violence.html.