Youth violence is a significant public health problem worldwide. This form of violence involves youth and young adults between the ages of 10 and 24 years who either intentionally use physical force or power to threaten or harm others or are victims of violence perpetrated by other youth.1,2 The consequences of youth violence include homicides, injuries requiring medical attention, psychological trauma, poor development and deprivation, and impact peers, families, schools, and entire communities.3,4 Exposure to youth violence has been associated with the development of health-risk behaviors such as alcohol and drug use, smoking and unsafe sexual practices; and associated with many adult forms of violent behavior including perpetration of child maltreatment, sexual violence, intimate partner violence, and self-harming behaviors through shared risk and protective factors.5
Public health efforts demonstrate youth violence is preventable. A public health approach to youth violence prevention involves a systematic understanding of the magnitude of the problem, identifying important risk and protective factors, developing and testing strategies to address risk and promote protective factors, and widely disseminating effective strategies.2,6 To effectively prevent youth violence, it is important to address risk and protective factors at multiple levels of the social ecology including the individual, relational, community, and societal levels. Youth violence primary prevention strategies may be directed to age groups early in the developmental lifespan when aggression and other violent behaviors commonly emerge and intensify and continue through adolescence and young adulthood.7
This chapter begins with an overview of the nature and burden of youth violence. Next, the social ecological model is used to describe the research on risk and protective factors for youth violence within a developmental framework.2 Next, programs, policies, and practices with the best available evidence for preventing youth violence are discussed. Finally, considerations are explored to enhance the implementation of evidence-based youth violence prevention programs, policies, and practices, and ultimately produce the greatest public health impact. While most studies cited in this chapter are from the United States (US), evidence from international studies are presented when available.
NATURE AND BURDEN OF THE PROBLEM
Youth violence involves the use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, by a person 10–24 years old, against another person that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment, or deprivation.4 This form of violence encompasses an array of harmful behaviors that begins in childhood and continues into young adulthood. Youth violence can take many forms including peer-to-peer violence that occurs in communities, school-based violence, bullying, and youth involved in gang violence. Some behaviors, such as bullying, cyberbullying, slapping, and hitting, can have significant consequences but do not always result in serious injury or death.3 Conversely, physically violent behaviors, such as fighting and assaults with or without a weapon, can lead to serious ...