What can be done about violence among young people?

Overall, good evidence indicates that violence among young people can be prevented through the organized efforts of society. Such programs cut across the activity areas of many sectors and require multi-agency and multidisciplinary work. The evidence base is much stronger for interventions that adopt a public health rather than criminal justice approach and for those that reduce risk factors and strengthen protective factors among young people early in life than for measures that seek to reduce violent behavior once it has already emerged.

However, no program can entirely prevent violence or the future development of violence among individuals. Thus, interventions are required in later life, despite the high costs of implementation. Programs that target children early in life are cost effective. These include parenting programs that have long-term effectiveness in preventing violent offending during adolescence and adulthood. Programs that develop children’s life and social skills in early childhood are also effective in both the short and longer term. These early interventions also improve school performance, reduce substance misuse and crime and improve outcomes for employment and health.

Such programs should be implemented widely given the high societal costs of violence and these added benefits to society. These require adaptation for local contexts and can target deprived neighborhoods with at-risk families. Reducing the availability and misuse of alcohol is important for preventing violence among young people, and good evidence supports various approaches, including setting minimum prices for alcoholic beverages, taxation, regulation and enforcement.
Good evidence also supports programs for preventing bullying for schools, which reduce violent attitudes and behavior and victimization in schools.

Other community settings can also be made safer, such as bars, clubs and other urban nightlife environments, to reduce alcohol-related violence, and community hot-spots can be targeted. Measures also exist that seek to reduce violence among young people who are already engaging in such behavior, but these are generally less well developed. Some evidence supports intensive treatments such as multi-system therapy, which involves interventions designed to help parents respond effectively to young people with serious criminal behavior. Problem-oriented policing and multi-component programs that combine social interventions at the community level also report positive results. Legislative measures to address access to knives and knife-carrying are promising and need to be studied further.