Substance abuse and stress appear to be major catalysts for teen violence. A recent study published in the Journal of Pediatrics shows that despite the belief that race, community or culture are the major determining factors when it comes to violent behavior at a young age, drug use and stress are more of the main influences.
Researchers and some members of the medical community are hopeful that not only will this information dispel common disbeliefs that children are born into a violent lifestyle, but that they will also be able to receive more help to handle stressors and drug temptations.
Alisha Moreland, MD, is the director of the Avel Gordly Center for Healing at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland and is anxious to help at-risk youth. “I get very concerned about the political conversation when you start talking about risk factors for people of color, violence and guns, because it speaks to the myth that if you’re black or Latino, you’re inherently violent. Everybody at some point becomes emotionally distressed, but that does not mean you are mentally ill, nor do mental health and mental illness mean the same thing,” explained Moreland.
In order to conduct the study, researchers investigated data that was gathered from 13,503 teenagers. In addition to analyzing the information provided, they also conducted interviews with the teens. It was discovered that of the children studied, the majority cited drugs and stress as motivating factors.
Before the study was even conducted, it was widely accepted that children who grow up in households where members of the family are abusing drugs are more likely to abuse drugs themselves. This correlation along with the obvious stressors this places on a child can all contribute to future acts of violence. Identifying potential motivating factors to underage violence will not only prevent future altercations, but could allow children to receive help for drug abuse and emotional problems before they escalate.