What kinds of factors may influence youth to engage in violence

Violence, in this authors opinion, is learned behavior.  Humans generally learn the basics of right and wrong by the people who raise them, teach them, and influence them on daily basis.  As children grow, parents teach them not to hit, not to bite, and generally not to hurt other people.  Children learn to share their toys and punished if they dont comply.  These basic skills lead to an understanding of the broader behaviors described as bad behavior or good behavior.  When children enter school, they receive further influence from their teachers and their peers.  While parents and teachers are the authority figures, peers can influence a person to go along with the group.

According to the text, Stanley Milgram conducted an experiment tested subjects on their willingness to commit a violent act against another human being, even if it went against what is morally wrong.  This experiment is summarized in Milgrams Experiment on Obedience to Authority. In this experiment, the test subjects ask an actor a series of questions.  If the answer was incorrect, the subjects were to give the actor an electrical shock and increase the intensity of the shocks as more answers were incorrect.  Approximately 35 of the test subjects walked away from the experiment, adhering to their moral judgment.  The rest of the test population conformed to the experimenter instructions they given in order to appear compliant and conforming.  In order to justify their wrongdoing, the test subjects turned to blaming others for their actions, some blamed the experimenter for telling them to do it, others blamed the actor for being too stupid to answer the questions correctly.

This is just one proven example of how authority figures can influence bad behavior.  One may also see this in the perpetuation of violence in families where physical abuse is present.  A parent exercises their authority through violence rather than communicating emotions effectively the child learns that violence is the only way to get through to others and in turn treats others with the same violent behavior.

As peers become more influential, they can have the same effect.  Peer pressure can lead to behaviors that may on the outset not seem violent, but inevitably hurt others.  Name calling, talking behind someones back, starting false rumors, bullying, and putting others down to exude authority as a group or to be perceived as better than others are just some examples of how the youth today can turn to violence to maintain their status among their peers.

There are certainly exceptions to these examples  the mental health of the aggressor (depressed, despondent, schizophrenic, etc.), self-defense (protecting self or others) or self-preservation (fighting for food or shelter).  The latter is visible in the fallout from the Haiti earthquake.  People en masse are lining up for food supplies and water, most receiving it in an orderly fashion.  Yet in some areas, desperation turns to violence and fighting in order to receive the rations. The response by those giving aid was often to leave the area and those who resorted to violence received nothing, or in some cases to respond with threats and violence in the form of tear gas themselves.

Even others would blame the media and technology today for youth violence.  Violent video games teach kids that killing others will help them win the game, violent song lyrics encourage kids subliminally to act similarly, violent images on television immunize children to violence itself.
In this authors opinion, it still falls to the authority figures to teach the children that violence is wrong, and to remove the influences, whether a form of media or peers, that teaches them otherwise.


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