With all the media attention on school shootings and violence, we know there are kids at risk walking the streets and school halls. There are identifiable risk factors to which you should be aware. If someone has one or more of these risk factors, it doesn’t guarantee they will act out violently. You can probably think of a number of kids who have one or more of these things operating in their lives who are not violent. But for kids prone to violence, these factors can set the stage for violence to occur.

If you know of a child/teen at risk, he/she may need help. Find out if anyone meaningful is involved in helping or monitoring that child. Too many times, we notice these kids after acts of violence have occurred. Then, all we can do is try to understand what may have contributed to their choices to act out violently. It would be better to prevent violence on the front end.

Here are things to look for when identifying kids at risk for violence:

  • Kids who have an early history of delinquent acts (prior arrests, criminal activity)
  • Kids who have a history of aggression and violence
  • Kids dealing with family problems such as abuse, alcoholism, unhappy parents, divorce, etc.
  • Kids who have psychiatric histories -suicide attempts, depression, anxiety, conduct problems, antisocial behavior, etc.
  • Kids who have neurological problems that impair thinking and feeling
  • Kids who have been discipline problems at home, school or in the community.
  • Kids who have peer and relationship conflicts (e.g., girlfriend breakup)
  • Kids who don’t know how to manage their emotions
  • Kids who have easy access to guns and explosives
  • Kids who lack parental supervision
  • Kids who spend a lot of time exposed to violent pop culture
  • Kids who are involved in the occult.

If you think you know someone who might be at risk, encourage him/her to get help. Keep in mind that the single most preventable factor for high- risk behavior in teens is a meaningful relationship with a parent. Stay connected to your children and get them help when they need it.

Written by Dr. Linda Mintle. Read her Beliefnet blog, Doing Life Together, where she discusses love, marriage, faith, and family.

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