Teens: The Company They Keep - Article
Article: Teens: The Company They Keep
Preventing Destructive Behavior by Harnessing the Power of Peers
Tragic events such as school shootings have presented us with images of adolescent aggressive and antisocial behavior. There is a national search for answers. Fortunately, a long-term commitment to basic behavioral research at NIMH is now paying off with the development and implementation of interventions to address these vexing problems.
Data from the National Youth Survey (NYS), a long-term study of violent offenders, point compellingly to the influence of deviant peers on a young person's tendency to engage in aggressive and
In 1976, the NYS began to follow a nationally representative sample of 1,725 boys and girls, ages 11 to 17. NYS investigators have monitored participants' self-reports of serious violent behaviors as well as official records of law violations. At the time of the most recent interview, the survey participants were between ages 27 and 33. More than half of all participants with records of violent behavior began to engage in such behavior between the ages of 14 and 17, although a substantial number began as young as age 12. After age 20, the risk of initiating a pattern of violent behavior was found to be close to zero. In addition, NYS found that association with delinquent peers precedes the initiation and progression to serious violent offenses in 90 percent of cases. This finding was true of young people of all races.
Many well-intended attempts to "reform" severely delinquent youths have had few positive effects and even negative outcomes.
Evaluations of the Therapeutic Foster Care program have shown that it is more effective in reducing delinquency than the usual placement in group homes.
Today's research is also suggesting new ways to prevent antisocial behavior through an array of interventions for youth that is aimed at peers and other key components of their social environment. Classroom and school-based programs are creating curriculums that include peer training, problem solving, conflict management, violence prevention, as well as programs for promoting social and emotional development in general school populations. These sorts of universal and targeted interventions compliment each other, and are designed to reduce violence across entire communities.
This continuing research has revealed that although there are identifiable and escalating pathways to antisocial behavior, and possibly some biological factors placing some children at risk, they are not set in stone, and individuals can make a long-term difference in the lives of troubled and troubling children.
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NIH Publication No. 01-4588
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Source: National Institute of Mental Health
Cache Date: December 16, 2004
- (National Women's Health Information Center, OWH, HHS)
- Abuse (Center for Research on Women with Disabilities)