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30% of American Teens Commit a Violent Act Each Year

A third of American teens engaged in violent acts over the past year.

Researchers at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) wanted to know more about teen violence and the factors that influence it. To learn more, they examined data on violent behaviors taken from interviews with more than 112 000 teens who participated in the 2004 – 2008 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health.

They looked for three types of violent acts:

  1. Participating in a serious fight at school or work
  2. Participating in a group on group fight
  3. Attacking another person with the intent to cause serious injury

 They found that amongst teens aged 12 to 17:

  • 30.9% (7.9 million American teens) had engaged in at least one of the violent acts over the previous 12 months. (22.6% of American teens were in a serious fight, 16.1% engaged in group fighting and 7.5% had tried to seriously injure someone else)
  • Males were more likely violent than females, at 34.6% compared to 27%
  • 24.6% of teens from higher income families (family income of over $75 000) engaged in violence compared to 40.5% of teens who came from families making less than $20 000 per year.
  • Only 17.7% of students with an A average at school engaged in violent acts, compared to a whopping 53.8% of students with D averages

In commenting on the study results, SAMHSA director Pamela S. Hyde J.D said that she hopes community and school leaders can use the information from the study to help build safer schools and communities and to create more effective treatment programs for those in need, concluding that, “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.”

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