Violent behaviour in teens

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VIOLENCE causes more injury and death in children, teenagers, and young adults than infectious diseases, cancer, or birth defects.

There is no single explanation for the violence caused by youth. Many different things cause violent behaviour in children. The more these things are present in a child’s life, the more likely he or she is to commit an act of violence. Behaviour will change depending on a child’s age and gender. Violent behaviour may be targeted at parents, other children, friends, or other family members.

Violent crimes include assault, rape, and robbery. Most violent crimes occur between friends or acquaintances or within families.

What are the warning signs for violent behaviour?

It is important to be alert to behaviour changes. People usually give hints that they are considering violence toward other people, such as:

  • Talking about violence, especially violence directed toward specific people or groups of people, such as student groups, or places, such as schools, churches, or government buildings.
  • Talking, writing, or drawing about death and violence.
  • Having unexplained mood changes.
  • Having intense anger or losing his or her temper every day.
  • Fighting often.
  • Acting aggressively toward others. This may include:
  • Teasing or taunting others by calling them names, making fun of them, or threatening them.
  • Making threatening phone calls.
  • Damaging or vandalising another person’s property.
  • Using alcohol, drugs, or tobacco.
  • Having risk-taking behaviour, such as speeding, drinking and driving, or high-risk sexual behaviours.
  • Carrying or talking about a weapon, especially a firearm.
  • Buying or talking about other means, such as poisons, that could kill or harm others.
  • Not taking responsibility for his or her actions or saying that the actions are justified because of how he or she has been treated.

The possibility of teen violence also increases when the following factors are present in a teen’s behaviour over several weeks or months:

  • Aggressive or violent behaviour
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Spending more time listening to music about violence or watching violent shows on TV, videos, or the internet
  • Gang membership or having a strong desire to become part of a gang

Access to or a fascination with guns or other violent weapons

  • Threatening other people regularly
  • Withdrawal from friends, family, and usually pleasurable activities
  • Fear of other people (paranoia)
  • Feeling rejected, alone, or disrespected
  • Being a constant victim of bullying
  • Poor school performance or attendance
  • Frequent problems with figures of authority
  • What can you do if you are worried about someone’s behaviour?
  • When you recognise warning signs of violent behaviour in someone else, there are steps you can take. Don’t count on someone else to deal with the situation. Taking action and telling someone who can help can prevent harm to yourself and others. It will also protect another teen with potentially violent behaviour from making a mistake that will affect the rest of his or her life.

Don’t spend time with people who show warning signs. Tell someone you trust and respect, such as a family member, counsellor, or teacher, about your concerns and ask for help.

If you are worried about being a victim of violence, ask someone in authority to help you.

Do not resort to violence or use a weapon to protect yourself.

Don’t try to deal with the situation by yourself. Ask for help.

Develop a safety plan to help you if you are in a potentially dangerous situation.

How can you manage your own anger without becoming violent?

Talk to someone. Find a trusted friend or adult to help you one-on-one if you are afraid to talk or if you can’t find the right words to describe what you are going through.

Be calm. Try to express criticism, disappointment, anger, or displeasure without losing your temper or fighting. Ask yourself whether your response is safe and reasonable.

Listen. Try to listen and respond without getting upset when someone tells you something you may not want to hear. — uofmhealth.org