Violent Behavior

By Vanessa Rasmussen, © 2004, All rights reserved.

Anger and arguments are normal parts of healthy relationships. However, anger that leads to threats or violence, such as hitting or hurting, is not normal or healthy. Physical, verbal, or sexual abuse is not an acceptable part of any relationship. Verbal threats erode the spirit and are very damaging in the long term. There is a great concern about the incidence of violent behavior among children and adolescents. This complex and troubling issue needs to be carefully understood by parents, teachers, and other adults.

Most studies indicate that no single factor or unique situation causes an individual to engage in violent behavior. Research on child violence has focused on the influences of biology, social and economic factors, trauma, personality, and temperament. Emotional problems, social conflict, the availability of weapons and the effects of alcohol and drugs, poor quality educational and recreational activities contribute to violent and homicidal behavior by children. Even the media frequently portrays the use of violence as a justified means of resolving conflict.

The risk for violent and homicidal behavior can be difficult to recognize in very young children. Prior to adolescence, children who become violent have temperamental difficultly, problems in socialization, and have experienced severe or repeated emotional trauma.

Violence can be learned and even unlearned, so it is especially important to help your children learn that violence is not a healthy way to resolve conflict. Living in a violent environment increases your child's chances of developing behavior problems, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, poor school achievement, and lowered expectations for the future.

What can be done?

  • Take an active role in your children's life at home, school, and in the community.
  • Encourage children to seek nonviolent ways to resolve conflicts. Arguing is fine, even healthy, as long as it does not turn violent.
  • Settle arguments and differences with your children as well as other members of the family without yelling or hitting. Be a good role model by settling conflicts peaceably and managing your own anger.
  • Limit your child's exposure to TV, movies, and video games to no more than 1 to 2 hours per day. If possible, screen the content for possible violence or other R-rated information on the program.
  • Participate in healthy alternatives, such as sports, interactive play, and reading, with your child.
  • Make sure your children do not have access to firearms and bomb materials.
  • Be aware of how they spend their time and money.
  • Talk about violence, gangs, drugs, and other topics of concern. Let your kids know how you feel and what your concerns are. Ask your children how they feel. Teach your children to identify and solve problems.

Copyright 2001, 2004. All rights reserved. Any reproduction of this article in whole or in part without written or verbal permission is strictly prohibited. For information about reprinting this article, contact the copyright owner: Vanessa Rasmussen, Ph.D, Starting a Day Care Center,