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University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center
Publish Date: 08/30/99
Media Contact: AHC Public Relations, (513) 558-4553
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Violence in Children and Youth Can Be Prevented

CincinnatióResearchers have concluded that violent behavior in children and youth can be prevented through more community preventative interventions. The Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry (GAP) Committee on Preventive Psychiatry made these conclusions in a recent paper published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry. The GAP committee consists of psychiatrists from all over the country, including faculty members from the University of Cincinnati, Yale University, and Stanford University.

"Violent behavior in children and youth is common," says Brian McConville, MD, professor of child psychiatry and pediatrics at UC College of Medicine. "Although there has been a decrease in the amount of violent behavior, it is still at historically high levels."

One of the group's concerns is guns. "The number of deaths by gunshot wounds in this country is high," says McConville. According to the Centers for Disease Control, one of every four deaths in adolescents aged 15 to 19 is caused by a firearm.

Children and youth are both victims and perpetrators of violence. Risk factors include socioeconomic status, difficult temperament, and chronic illness. Access to firearms presents a particularly serious risk as well. However, intact family structures, positive social peer groups, and supportive communities may help prevent violent behavior.

Other societal prevention methods include gun control and gun-free zones around schools. The researchers found that programs like gun confiscation and conflict resolution for serious at-risk youth may be useful, but only when embedded within well-funded, clinically based, and community-focused programs. Single-emphasis programs, such as "Boot Camps," were perceived as beneficial, but their success rates have not been high.

McConville believes the government needs to take steps to safeguard schools. "I think metal detectors and guards in schools are good ideas," says McConville. "The technology is useful, and people will get used to it like the metal detectors at the airport." He also thinks that parents should be active lobbyists with schools and legislators to help keep kids safe.

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