Giving Hope to At Risk Youth Decreases Violent Behavior

At-risk youth are more prone to violence than children from higher socioeconomic conditions. “Members of specific demographic groups, especially males and African Americans, are at particular risk for involvement in serious forms of violence and related negative health and social sequelae,” said S.A. Stoddard of the School of Nursing at the University of Michigan, and lead author of a recent study exploring the effects of hopelessness and violence. “Youth who participate in violence are at risk for potentially life-threatening outcomes, including imprisonment, injury, and death.” Adolescence is a time of emotional change, and it is during this time that violence and aggression intensify, laying the groundwork for problems in other areas of a child’s life. “Violence involvement during adolescence is also a potent risk factor for ongoing violence involvement into young adulthood,” said Stoddard. “At the individual level, factors correlated with poor academic achievement, (e.g., impulsivity, attention and learning problems, and antisocial behavior) have been associated with higher levels of violence involvement.”

Stoddard believes that at-risk youth may be more vulnerable to violent behavior because their environments are not hopeful and the futures they envision for themselves look dismal. “This might result in feelings of hopelessness about themselves and their future. If youth do not have positive expectations for the future and do not see current behaviors as linked to future goals they may not be concerned about consequence of risk taking behaviors such as criminal involvement and violent behaviors.”

But she believes that providing hope to children can reduce the risk of violent behavior in these children as well. Stoddard analyzed data from 850 teens from at-risk high schools and found that positive future orientation was directly related to lower levels of violence in the teens. “Finally, our findings suggest that interventions that foster the development of future goals and aspirations for young people could play a vital role in violence prevention efforts.” Stoddard added, “These interventions could help youth develop a sense of hope in their future by providing experiences that assist them to see the possibilities for themselves. In addition, interventions that provide youth with opportunities to practice skills necessary to succeed, while also exposing them to positive adult role models, could help them learn what it takes to reach their dreams.”

Stoddard, Sarah A., Marc A. Zimmerman, and Jose A. Bauermeister. “Thinking About the Future as a Way to Succeed in the Present: A Longitudinal Study of Future Orientation and Violent Behaviors Among African American Youth.”

© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

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  • Mollie

    November 16th, 2011 at 5:15 AM

    Setting goals and expectations is important for all demographics, and perhaps more do for children who are at risk for violent behaviors due to their environment and lifestyle. I wish that there were more schools and programs that saw this kind of goal setting as a worthwhile program to pursue and as a way to give these children the opportunity for a good life that they have been robbed of through no fault of their own. Maybe when we begin to open our eyes to the real kind of future that these kids could have we would all see that this is truly something that we must do to protect their future and ours as well.

  • Hector

    November 16th, 2011 at 9:30 AM

    Do we really need these kind of statements from experts about how one ethnicity is more into violence and other undesirable things when the aim really should be to stop people from thinking these exact things?

    Let us take this as an issue that is societal, needs a solution and lets us not point out one particular ethnicity.

  • MissE

    November 16th, 2011 at 5:11 PM

    Too often we see this as a problem that someone else needs to deal with, not something that we see in our own home so why worry about it.

    Well the fact is that if we do not begin to prop these kids up with something positive then we are going to end up with an entire generation of apathetic adults who are contributing nothing to society.

    I for one think that we have a little bit too much of that kind of behavior already and am ready to see everyone have something positive to give back to society. And to give them the confidence to know that they have something to share that is worthy.

  • David Edmonds

    November 18th, 2011 at 1:22 AM

    They need discipline and guidance more than hope. Doesn’t matter if you’re at-risk, the 1%, a member of the Boy Scouts, or the reincarnation of Jesus himself. If you are not told how to behave properly, you won’t behave properly. I know my life is a mess and only going to go downhill but that’s not giving me a violent streak.

  • P.R. Arnold

    November 18th, 2011 at 3:07 AM

    @David Edmonds: It’s the same old story, David. A researcher once again shifting the blame away from bad parents and onto something else, this time an intangible: hope. Everyone, gather around and say it with me-bad parents raise bad kids. That’s all there is to it.

    Back in my day we kept them in line with a stiff ruler on the knuckles. The decline in corporal punishment is what’s ruined our youth of today. Mark my words, it can only get worse.

  • Dan Branson

    November 19th, 2011 at 2:31 AM

    Okay, so poverty is a factor in crime, granted. But their upbringing is to blame as well. I grew up in a home that would be considered impoverished and I was never violent nor committed crimes. We made do with what we had largely due to the fact that our parents raised us right. They taught us never to steal or hurt another and to be happy with our lot because there’s always others worse off than you are. There is no single cause of crime, and it takes only one criminal act to go unpunished to set them on that path for the rest of their lives.

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