A new national study reveals that nearly 7.8 million adolescents aged 12 to 17, almost one third (30.9 percent), participated in any of three violent behaviors over the past year. The study, conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), showed that 22.6 percent of adolescents reported having participated in a serious fight at school or work; 16.1 percent reported involvement in group-against-group fighting; and 7.5 percent reported attacking others with intent to seriously hurt them.
Overall, male adolescents were more likely to engage in violent behaviors than females (34.6 percent versus 27.0 percent), but the study found other demographic and socioeconomic factors were also associated with an adolescent’s risk for violent behaviors.
One of the key factors seems to be family income. Adolescents from families with higher annual incomes are less likely to engage in violent behaviors than those from lower income families. For example, adolescents from families with annual incomes of $75,000 or more are far less likely to be involved in violent behaviors than adolescents from families with annual incomes of less than $20,000 (24.6 percent versus 40.5 percent).
The study also indicates that academic performance is also associated with risk for participating in violent behaviors measured. Adolescents with “A” averages in school were less than half as likely to be involved in violent behaviors as adolescents earning “D” averages in school (17.7 percent versus 53.8 percent).
Low academic performance even seems to transcend the association with family income as a risk factor for violent behaviors. Among adolescents with “D” averages, those coming from families with annual incomes of $75,000 had nearly identical rates of violent behaviors as those who came from families with annual incomes of less than $20,000 (54.5 percent versus 55.9 percent).
“Youth violence has long lasting, devastating consequences –the alarming rates of violence found by this study reinforce the importance of our efforts to prevent violence.” said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde, J.D. “These rates also underscore the need to treat the psychological trauma that can result from youth exposure to violence. Community leaders and school officials can use this vital information in making decisions about creating safe learning environments, and effective treatment programs which can rebuild young lives and promote safer communities.”
Violent Behaviors and Family Income among Adolescents is based on data from the 2004 to 2008 SAMHSA National Survey on Drug Use and Health which involve interviews with 112,885 adolescents throughout the nation. This study was done as part of SAMHSA’s strategic initiative on data, outcomes, and quality – an effort to create an integrated data strategy that informs policy makers and service providers on the nature and scope of behavioral health issues.
The full report is available at http://www.oas.samhsa.gov/2k10/189/ViolentBehaviors.cfm. For related publications and information, visit http://www.samhsa.gov/.
Media Contact: SAMHSA Press Office