Teen Violence and Peer Pressure This article discusses peer pressure and problems of teenage violence. It will also try to define the sources of the problems and the solutions to them.
Violence. Mentioning the word conjures up images of assault, abuse, and even murder. It’s the act of purposefully hurting someone. And it’s a major issue facing today’s young adults. In today’s American society, violence is more prevalent now then ever. Annually, one in twelve highschoolers is threatened or injured with a weapon each year. Each year one person out of every forty is a victim of a violent crime. At the same time, statistics show that by the early 1990’s the incidence of violence cause by young people reached unparalleled levels in American society.
Everyone wants to find an answer to a problem that is in a great need of solving. But where do we look to find the answer? What causes people to behave in a violent fashion? Maybe if we explore the reasons for behavior, and address these issues, we will win our battle with violence.
There is no single explanation for the overall rise in youth violence. Many different factors cause violent behavior. The more these factors are present in our life, the more likely people are to commit an act of violence. What causes someone to punch, kick, stab or fire a gun at someone else or even him/herself? There is never a simple answer to that question. But people often commit violence because of one or more of the following:
· Expression. Some people use violence to release feeling of anger or frustration. They think there are no answers to their problems and turn to violence to express their out of control emotions.
· Manipulation. Violence is used, as a way to control others or get something one wants.
· Retaliation. Violence is used to retail against those who have hurt them or someone they care about. Violence is a learned behavior. Like all learned behaviors, it can be changed. This isn’t easy, though. Since there is no single cause of violence, there is no simple solution. The best we can do is to learn to recognize the warning signs of violence and get help when it is seen in one. The factors that contribute to violent behavior include:
· Peer pressure
· Need for attention or respect
· Feelings of low self-worth
· Early childhood abuse or neglect
· Witnessing violence at home, in the community or in the media
· Easy access to weapons
Often people who act violently have trouble controlling their feelings. Others may have hurt them. Some think that making people fear them through violence or threats of violence will solve their problems or earn them respect. This isn’t true. People who behave violently loose respect. They find themselves isolated or disliked, and they still feel angry and frustrated. Following are the signs for a serious possibility of a violence:
- loss of temper on daily basis, - frequent physical fighting, - significant vandalism or property damage, - increase in risk-taking behavior, - detailed plans to commit acts of violence, - announcing threats or plans for hurting others, - enjoying hurting animals, - increase in use of drugs or alcohol, - carrying a weapon.
Drug and alcohol abuse in this country has always been around, but recently numbers are hitting all time highs. From 1992 to 1995, drug use among teenagers almost doubled. Drugs and alcohol are both mind-altering agents, which cause people to do things that they would not normally do or intensify the emotions that they feel. It is believed that many violent acts are due to people being under the influence of some type of narcotic or alcohol. In a survey conducted in University of Tennessee for the Department of Health, the effects of drug abuse on violence were studied. It was found that almost 56% of drinkers also used drugs while drinking. Interestingly, white males were found to be more abuse to violence and crime. With drug use and violence rising, a direct correlation can be seen. Our society has created drug awareness programs in our schools, but obviously something must be changed in these programs. They simply are not working. The highest drug abuse numbers are seen in the teen year’s age group. We must find a way to lower these numbers and reduce the number of drug users, especially children. When we have successfully done this, its believe that rate of violence will also drop.
Vireos teens today get involved into crimes because of peer pressure. Teens who are committing crimes are doing it with their peers. There are pressured from one another to perform violent acts. Often teenagers think that hurting people will make their reputation in school good. Peer pressure is a very subtle tactic. Most of the times teens don’t realize there are using per pressure or that it is happening to them. The media portrays peer pressure as a teen offering their “friend” a joint, some alcohol, or tobacco. But this is only a small example of peer pressure.
Girl friends talk to each other about other girls, calling them whores or saying they have crabs or other sexually transmitted diseases. This collusion is peer pressure. It is also the beginning of rumors that create anxiety and frustration for many teens in school.
Boys say sexual things about girls and friends go along with it – this is peer pressure. Kids gang up on another student making him or her the goat of the class – peer pressure. A classroom of students decides to get a teacher of track or create a disturbance so that studying can’t take place – peer pressure.
All of these are example of negative peer pressure. But one must not think that this is the only way peer pressure is used. On the positive side, peers can create an environment that is accepting and healthy. A good example was one of an 8th grade cocker team. The young ladies over there used the team to show encouragement and praise for their peers. They united to provide a model of acceptance of all for the rest of the school.
As we mentioned before, one of the factors for teen violence is an easy access to weapons. The statistics from Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence (CSPV) show that over the past decade homicide rates among adolescents have increased dramatically, and, at a pace exceeding that of a normal assaultive behavior. The increase is almost entirely attributed to homicides involving firearms. Suicide rates among adolescents have more then tripled since the early 1950’s and, again, the increase is attributed to suicides involving firearms. The primary context for youth firearms injuries, is interpersonal violence, which accounts for about 60% of both fatal and nonfatal firearm injuries between children and adolescents. In 1992, 5,262 of five to nineteen-year-olds in the United States died of gunshot wounds. Of these:
· 62% of the violent acts were homicide
· 27% of the violent acts were suicides
· 9% of the violent acts were unintentional injuries
· 2% of the violent acts were the result of undetermined causes
Firearms injuries rank as the fifth leading cause of death for 5-to 9-year-old children and the second leading cause of death for children aged 10 to 14 and 15-19 in 1992. The use of firearms by school-aged youth is much greater among those who live in the inner city.
Another major part of teen violence are the gangs. Generally, for purpose of this discussion, a gang can be considered to be a loosely organized group of individuals who collaborate together for social reasons. Modern day gangs now collaborate together for anti-social reasons. Gangs generally have a leader or a group of leaders who issue orders and reap the fruits of gang’s activities. A gang may also wear their “color”, wear certain types of clothing, tattoos, brands, or likewise imprint their gang’s name, logo or other identifying marks on their bodies. Many gangs also adopt certain types of hairstyles and communicate through the use of hand signals and graffiti on the walls, streets, school work and school property. It must be understood that it is not illegal to be in a gang and indeed many adults are currently involved in activities that meet a Webster’s definition for a gang. However, many gangs of today, especially youthful gangs, break the law to provide funding for gang activities or to further the gang’s reputations on the streets. Gangs may identify with a large city gang or remain locally turf oriented.
Over the last several years in Arkansas, gangs have made an evolution from being turf and brotherhood oriented to now being involved in one way or another with criminal enterprises. Some sell drugs, some steal cars, some brutalize and rob, some rape and some do all of the above. Local gang members have stated that out of town connections many times bring in guns and drugs from other communities for distribution.
Groups that may have started out as a delinquent band of neighborhood toughs have now turned into a violent drug gang, some of whom retain a gang identity for enforcement, collection, or other reasons. Most gang members crave power, or “juice” as it is known in gang slang. Several years ago, a pecking order within a gang may have been established by flying fists. Now it is settled by flying lead. Joining a group known to have a reputation, good or bad, gives a kid purpose looking for something to belong to. Participants have said the mere interaction of members, listening to one another’s problems and sharing the other traits and tribulations today’s teens faced with the drawing card for them to become a banger. Gang members also claim to enjoy the respect or fear of others exhibit around them. Then they say, the money begins flowing, and with that comes all of the things associated with material wealth that is usually beyond the reach of this adolescents without the criminal activity of being involved in a gang. All of this is quite a heady trip for a young kid. Once a kid gets into a gang, over and over they are told there is no way out. They fear serious reprisals from fellow gang members if a defection is suspected. Some are told that they will be killed if they try to get out. Others are told that they can kill their mother to earn their way out. You must remember when dealing with a kid involved in this, that our beliefs must be set aside because the young person’s beliefs are what we are dealing with, and you can bet that they believe everything that gang tells them.
Sociologist as well as gang members have isolated the following reasons for joining a street gang:
Additionally, many kids are intimidated into gangs to avoid continued harassment. Gangs provide their members and family members with protection from other gangs as well as any other perceived threats.
The current gang structure became increasingly visible at a time that paralleled the introduction of crack cocaine to the streets. Hang culture is also highly glamorized by the media including television, big screen releases, and powerful, idolized hard-core rap artists who rap about revolution and killing. This music is in great demand by both black and white kids and provides the role models for many of the dress habits and slang of today’s street culture.
A lot of violence ideas are coming from the media: the movies, TV shows, radio, etc. One of the most harmful things for the teens in our times is the Internet. The dangers of the Internet are widely publicized. From the prevalence of questionable sites to pedophiles in chat rooms, the media portrays the web as a dark, unsafe realm for teens.
Beside all of those topics discussed above, we all must realize that the one of the reasons for teen behavior is based on something that we have no control of. These are the biological changes that they are going trough. The early adolescent often goes trough a period of low self-esteem because he is in a “never-never land”, not yet an adult while no longer a child. During this transition, he questions his future role as an adult male. He may ask himself: “will I be tall or short, “ “ will these blemishes go away,” and most importantly, “ will I be attractive to the apposite sex? “
All the problems are to be dealt with. Each school should have a strong academic mission, clear nonviolent and prosocial behavioral norm, consistent and fair rule enforcement, and a climate of emotional support. Those things help to reduce school disorders. Some key ways schools can contribute to the prevention of violence include: the use of management and instructional practices in classrooms and on playgrounds that promote the development of social bonding to school and academics success, the promotion of prosocial norms and behavior, teaching skills for resolving conflict nonviolently, and minimizing the availability and acceptance of weapons. School-based violence prevention efforts achieve the best results if they are nested within a coordinated, well-designed prevention system involving the entire community. Schools can play an important part in violence prevention, but they should not be expected to reduce levels of community violence.
Hawkins, J.D, Farrington, D.P., & Catalano, R.F. (1988). Reducing School Violence Through The Schools. In D.S. Elliott, B Hamburg, & K. R. Williams (Editors), Violence in American Schools: A New Perspective, (pp 127-155) New York, NY: Cambridge University Press
Laub, J.H., & Lauritsen, J.L. (1988). The Interdependence of School Violence with Neighborhood and Family Conditions. In D.S. Elliott, B Hamburg, & K. R. Williams (Editors), Violence in American Schools: A New Perspective, (pp 127-155) New York, NY: Cambridge University Press
Mercy, J.A., & Rosenberg, M.L. (1988). Preventing Firearm Violence In and Around Schools. In D.S. Elliott, B Hamburg, & K. R. Williams (Editors), Violence in American Schools: A New Perspective, (pp 159-187) New York, NY: Cambridge University Press