COLUMBIA, MD (May 6, 2010) - If you're between the ages of 12 and 24, you face the highest risk of being the victim of violence. At the same time, statistics show that by the early 1990's the incidence of violence caused by young people reached unparalleled levels in American society.
The teen years pose some of the most difficult challenges. Teenagers, dealing with hormone changes and an ever-complex world, may feel that no one can understand their feelings, especially parents. As a result, the teen may feel angry, alone and confused while facing complicated issues about identity, peers, sexual behavior, drinking and drugs.
Many different factors cause violent behavior. The more these factors are present in your life, the more likely you are to commit an act of violence. These include aggressive behavior or violence by the teen, drug or alcohol abuse, promiscuity, school truancy, brushes with the law or runaway behavior. Likewise, if a parent is resorting to hitting or other violent behavior in an attempt to maintain discipline, this is a strong danger sign.
“Young people, like adults, experience stress. It can come from a variety of sources including doing well in school, making and sustaining friendships, or managing perceived expectations from their parents, teachers, or coaches,” says Dr. Mary Alvord, public education coordinator for The Maryland Psychological Association. “Some stress can be positive in that it provides the energy to tackle a big test, presentation, or sports event. Too much stress, however, can create unnecessary hardship and challenge."
Often people who act violently have trouble controlling their feelings. They may have been hurt by others. Some think that making people fear them through violence or threats of violence will solve their problems or earn them respect. This isn't true. People who behave violently lose respect. They find themselves isolated or disliked, and they still feel angry and frustrated.
Tuning into emotional or behavioral cues is important in identifying potential problems. Here are some tips from the American Psychological Association (APA) on ways to recognize possible signs of violence:
If you see these immediate warning signs, violence is a serious possibility:
If you notice the following signs over a period of time, the potential for violence exists:
What you can do if someone you know shows violence warning signs. When you recognize violence warning signs in someone else, there are things you can do. Hoping that someone else will deal with the situation is the easy way out.
Above all, be safe. Don't spend time alone with people who show warning signs. If possible without putting yourself in danger, remove the person from the situation that's setting them off.
Tell someone you trust and respect about your concerns and ask for help. This could be a family member, guidance counselor, teacher, school psychologist, coach, clergy, school resource officer or friend.
If you are worried about being a victim of violence, get someone in authority to protect you. Do not resort to violence or use a weapon to protect yourself.
Ask an experienced professional for help. The key to really preventing violent behavior is asking an experienced professional for help. The most important thing to remember is don't go it alone.
More information can be found on the APA help center @ http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/warning-signs.aspx
The Maryland Psychological Association (MPA), in Columbia, Maryland, is the statewide Professional Association for Maryland Psychologists, affiliated with the American Psychological Association. MPA’s membership includes more than 1,300 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. MPA’s purpose is to advance psychology as a science, a practice, and a means of promoting human welfare.