SOURCE: Vision Media

Vision Media

December 22, 2009 03:02 ET

Family and Relationships: Is Youth Violence a Learned Behavior? -- Outlines Five Essential Life Skills That Parents Should Consider When Teaching Their Children What to Emulate

PASADENA, CA--(Marketwire - December 22, 2009) - Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that rates of violent behavior among U.S. teens have been generally on the decrease since 1991, homicide is still the second leading cause of death among teens 15-19 years of age. The U.K., on the other hand, reports a rise in homicides among 10-19-year-olds in 2007 and 2008. Such mixed news begs important questions for parents: How many violent children are too many? Ten children? One child? In a new article from, family and relationships expert Gina Stepp explores five important life skills parents can teach children to help protect them from becoming victimizers.

Perhaps there are no guarantees, but researchers who focus on the interplay between biological and environmental influences on behavior have uncovered several factors associated with youth violence.

"The American Psychological Association's website notes that there's no gene for violence," says Stepp. "Research indicates that even when there are biological factors, these can very often be mitigated by environmental factors: particularly through the efforts of family and community. Violence, generally speaking, is a learned behavior."

While the media may certainly be a force for modeling violence to teens, parents must take ultimate responsibility for teaching children what to emulate and supplying them with appropriate models. Unfortunately, parents themselves sometimes model violence -- and children may be exposed to violence within their communities as well. In addition to these two important influences, other factors thought to contribute to aggression include poor family, peer and community relationships in general and lower levels of moral and abstract reasoning and problem-solving skills. And of course, mental disorders and biological factors (including brain damage and other abnormalities) also come into play.

"However," says Stepp, "it is important to note that while large numbers of teens may be exposed to various combinations of any or all of the risk factors for violence, they do not all become violent." The difference lies in the degree of resilience children have at their disposal.

How can parents build the kind of resilience in their children that can help protect them from responding to others with violence? Stepp outlines five essential life skills in the article "Who Am I? The Question of Youth Violence" that support resilience and explains that children learn these best when taught by adults with whom they have secure emotional connections. In other words, the engaged and supportive family relationships that instill a positive identity in children are of critical importance in youth violence prevention.

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