Youth violence

youth violence 11Violence occurring outside the home among children, adolescents and young men, covering 10–29 years (WHO)

Youth violence overlaps with other types of violence, including violence against children and homicide. It may include: bullying and physical fighting, sexual harassment and assault during adolescence, dating violence, as well as assault associated with peer and gang violence.

Youth violence may start in younger age groups and then escalate further and continue into adulthood. Adolescence is a particularly critical time for intervention.

Preventing youth violence requires a comprehensive approach that addresses the social determinants of violence, such as income inequality, rapid demographic and social change, and low levels of social protection. Health is not the only player, but it is an important one. There are opportunities to intervene early and thereby reduce the burden of youth violence and youth homicides in the Region of the Americas; for example integrating violence prevention within broader efforts to improve child and adolescent health and resilience.

Key facts

  • Youth violence costs the lives of hundreds of young people in the Region in the Americas. Homicides are a leading cause of death for youth, particularly young men and boys aged 15 to 24 years old in the Americas.
  • For every murder, there are many other young people who sustain injuries. Data suggests that at least 20–40 young people are admitted to a hospital with serious violence-related injuries inflicted during assault and robbery.
  • Others live with the consequences of violence for the rest of their lives. Exposure to violence may result in mental health problems or lead young people to adopt high-risk behaviors such as smoking, alcohol and drug abuse, and unsafe sex.
  • The social and economic costs of youth violence are much higher and often lifelong – including educational underachievement, increased risk of unemployment and poverty. Youth violence can intersect with gang membership and organized crime.
  • Youth violence is preventable. Evidence shows that there are several best buys for preventing violence from happening and for mitigating its consequences, so that all children and youth can enjoy the highest standard of health and well-being
  • Critical to reducing the immediate consequences of youth violence are improvements in health services. When health services have the capacity to respond adequately, they can help to interrupt the retaliatory nature of youth violence and refer youth to support services.