Youth Violence: Fact Sheet

Occurrence and Consequences

  • In 2002, more than 877,700 young people ages 10 to 24 were injured from violent acts. Approximately 1 in 13 required hospitalization (CDC 2004).
  • Homicide is the second leading cause of death among young people ages 10 to 24 overall. In this age group, it 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, Alaskan Natives, and Asian Pacific Islanders (Anderson and Smith 2003).
  • In 2001, 5,486 young people ages 10 to 24 were murdered�an average of 15 each day (CDC 2004).
  • In 2001, 79% of homicide victims ages 10 to 24 were killed with firearms (CDC 2004).
  • Between 1994 and 1999, 172 students ages 5 to 18 were killed on or near school grounds or at school-related activities (Anderson et al. 2001).
  • More than 50% of all school-associated violent deaths occur at the beginning or end of the school day or during lunch (Anderson et al. 2001).
  • In a nationwide survey, 17% of students reported carrying a weapon (e.g., gun, knife, or club) on one or more days in the 30 days preceding the survey (Grunbaum et al. 2004).
  • Among students nationwide, 33% reported being in a physical fight one or more times in the 12 months preceding the survey (Grunbaum et al. 2004).
  • Data from a study of 8th and 9th grade students showed 25% had been victims of nonsexual dating violence and 8% had been victims of sexual dating violence (Foshee et al. 1996).
  • Nationwide, 9% of students reported being hit, slapped, or physically hurt on purpose by their boyfriend or girlfriend in the 12 months prior to being surveyed (Grunbaum et al. 2004).

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, Alaskan Natives, and Asian Pacific Islanders (Anderson and Smith 2003).
  • Of the 5,486 homicides reported in the 10 to 24 age group in 2001, 85% (4,659) were males and 15% (827) were females (CDC 2004).
  • A nationwide survey found male students (41%) more likely to have been involved in a physical fight than female students (25%) in the 12 months preceding the survey (Grunbaum et al. 2004).
  • A nationwide survey found female students (12%) more likely than male students (6%) to have been forced to have sexual intercourse (Grunbaum et al. 2004).

Risk Factors

The first step in preventing youth violence is to identify and understand the risk factors. A risk factor is anything that increases the likelihood of a person suffering harm. Risk factors are not necessarily causes. Research has identified the following risk factors for youth violence (DHHS 2001; Lipsey and Derzon 1998):


  • Attention deficits/hyperactivity
  • Antisocial beliefs and attitudes
  • History of early aggressive behavior
  • Involvement with drugs, alcohol, or tobacco
  • Early involvement in general offenses
  • Low IQ
  • Poor behavioral control
  • Social cognitive or information-processing deficits


  • Authoritarian childrearing attitudes
  • Exposure to violence and family conflict
  • Harsh, lax, or inconsistent disciplinary practices
  • Lack of involvement in the child\'s life
  • Low emotional attachment to parents or caregivers
  • Low parental education and income
  • Parental substance abuse and criminality
  • Poor family functioning
  • Poor monitoring and supervision of children


  • 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


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

Protective Factors

Recent research focuses on how people recover from adverse situations, bringing a new awareness of the importance protective factors have in preventing youth violence. Protective factors are individual or environmental aspects that buffer young people from the effects of risk. Identifying and understanding protective factors are equally as important as researching risk factors.

To date, protective factors have not been studied as extensively or with the same scientific rigor as risk factors. Most existing research is preliminary; however, studies propose the following protective factors (DHHS 2001):

Individual Protective Factors

  • Intolerant attitude toward deviance
  • High IQ
  • Positive social orientation

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.

Anderson RN, Smith BL. Deaths: leading causes for 2001. National Vital Statistics Report 2003;52(9):1_86.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) [online]. (2004). Available from: URL: [Cited 2004 May 24].

Department of Health and Human Services (US). Youth violence: a report of the Surgeon General [online] 2001 Available from: URL: [Cited 2004 May 24].

Foshee VA, Linder GF, Bauman, KE, et al. The Safe Dates Project: theoretical basis, evaluation design, and selected baseline findings. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Supplement 1996;12(5):39-47.

Grunbaum JA, Kann L, Kinchen S, Ross JG, Lowry R, Harris WA, et al. Youth risk behavior surveillance_United States, 2003. MMWR 2004;53(SS-2):1_100. 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.