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Youth Violence

Youth violence is a significant public health problem that affects thousands of young people each day, and in turn, their families, schools and communities.

What is youth violence?

Youth violence is a traumatic experience that can have lifelong health and social consequences. It is often connected to other forms of violence, including child abuse and neglect, sexual violence, self-harm and suicide.

Types of youth violence

Bullying: Unwanted and aggressive behaviour that involves a real or perceived imbalance of power. This behaviour is often repeated over time and can have lasting impacts on victims. Bullying takes many forms, including verbal, social, online and physical bullying.

Intimate partner violence among young people: this can include physical violence, sexual violence, stalking, or psychological harm by a current or former partner or spouse. This type of violence can occur among heterosexual or same-sex couples and does not require sexual intimacy.

Sexual violence and abuse: any behaviour thought to be of a sexual nature which is unwanted and takes place without consent. Sexual violence and abuse can be physical, psychological, verbal or online.

Online abuse and violence: This can include any type of abuse that happens on the internet and across a range of different devices (e.g. PC, mobile and gaming devices). Online abuse and violence can include cyberbullying, intimate image abuse, sexual abuse and exploitation.

Gang violence: Gangs typically engage in criminal activity and use violence or intimidation to enhance or preserve their power, reputation, or economic resources. The nature of violence can vary largely, including homicide, knife and gun related offences, assault and exploitive crimes. Young people involved with gangs might be victims of violence or pressured into doing things (e.g. stealing or carrying drugs or weapons). They might be abused, exploited and put into dangerous situations.

Knife and gun crime: this can include offences where an individual is in possession of a weapon in a public place, have used a weapon against another person, or threatened an individual with a weapon.

Exploitation and modern slavery: Exploitation is the use of an individual (e.g. children or young/vulnerable people) for someone’s own advantage, gratification or profit, often resulting in unjust, cruel and harmful treatment. Exploitation can come in many forms, including sexual exploitation, criminal exploitation and modern slavery.

Risk and protective factors for youth violence

Click here to view our risk and protective factor infographic.

There is a growing body of evidence on the factors which can heighten the risk of young people being involved in violence- either as victims or perpetrators. These risk factors can be cumulative, whereby the presence of multiple risk factors can increase the overall risk.

  • Demographic profile- characteristics such as age, gender and ethnicity can increase the risk of involvement in violence. For example, boys and young men have an increased risk of being involved with knife-related violence, whereas girls and young women have a higher risk of victimisation from intimate partner and sexual violence and abuse.
  • Psychological and behavioural characteristics- this can include hyperactivity, attention problems, poor behavioural control, sensation seeking and impulsiveness. Furthermore, involvement in gangs or delinquent and risky behaviour can lead to violence.
  • Exposure to trauma- youth violence is often considered an adverse childhood experience (ACE), however, exposure to ACEs (e.g. abuse, neglect, parental mental health) and violence in the community can also perpetuate the risk of being a victim and/or perpetrator of violence.
  • Education- Low academic achievement and aspirations and poor commitment and engagement with school is associated with violence.
  • Alcohol and drugs- easy access to- and consumption of drugs and alcohol can lead to violence.
  • Deprivation- whilst anyone can be a victim of violence, certain types of violence are more prevalent in the most deprived communities (such as gang-related violence). Income and employment deprivation can increase the risk of violence.
  • Parental relationships- the attachment between child and parent, parental disciplinary actions and the monitoring and supervision of a child (e.g. harsh or lax parenting) can impact on the likelihood of an individual being involved in violence.

Vlog: Strategic Needs Assessment of Serious Youth Violence in the South Wales Police force area

Prevent: Strategy to prevent serious youth violence in South Wales pdf
South Wales Police Strategic Needs Assessment of Serious Youth Violence: Highlight report pdf
A Comprehensive Technical Package for the Prevention of Youth Violence and Associated Risk Behaviors PDF

By Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Preventing Youth Violence: An overview of the evidence PDF

By World Health Organisation

Preventing youth violence and gang involvement: Practical advice for schools and colleges PDF

By Home Office

European report on preventing violence and knife crime among young people Website

By The World Health Organisation (Europe)

Approaches to prevent or reduce violence with a focus on youth, knife and gang-related violence PDF

By Public Health England

Preventing gang and youth violence: Spotting signals of risk and supporting children and young people Website

By Early Intervention Foundation