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Youth Violence: Do Parents and Families Make a Difference?

NCJ Number
National Institute of Justice Journal Dated: April 2000 Pages: 30-38
Date Published
April 2000
9 pages
Publication Series
This article is an adaptation of the author's statement to the U.S. House of Representatives' Bipartisan Working Group on Youth Violence (September 15, 1999); the focus of the statement is on issues concerning the role of parents and families in the genesis and prevention of youth violence.

The author first corrects a common misperception, i.e., that youth violence is increasing. Data show that the juvenile homicide arrest rate has declined steadily and dramatically since 1993, along with violent crime among all age groups. He also notes the overwhelming evidence that the availability of guns is the single most important factor that distinguishes youth violence in America from youth violence in other parts of the world. The author then proceeds to his primary subject, which is the role of the family in fostering and preventing delinquency. Domestic violence is cited as a primary factor in the development of violent behaviors by youth raised in such homes. Also, many violent youth come from families in which parents are negligent or disengaged from their child-rearing responsibilities. Thus, exposure to violence or abuse in the home, exposure to hostile and punitive parenting, or growing up in a home environment in which parents are not sufficiently involved in their child's life are among the most important risk factors for the child's subsequent involvement in violent and other types of antisocial behavior. Pathways through which the family impacts behaviors of children are through modeling, biological/genetic factors, mental health problems, parenting and personality development, academic performance, and peer pressure. The author also discusses the causes of negative parenting, the role of popular culture, and strategies needed to reduce youth violence. The latter involve the development of programs that can impact parenting behavior in a positive way. 4 notes

Date Published: April 1, 2000