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.”
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