Connections Between Violence and Adolescent Identity: An Example of the Limitations of Current Theory in Understanding and Preventing Youth Violence

By Mark Edberg.

Published by The Social Sciences Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Youth violence has emerged as an important global issue affecting public health and socioeconomic development. In the United States, most youth violence prevention programs are based on an epidemiological exposure model called the risk and protective factors approach, in which the likelihood of youth involvement in violence or other risk behavior is framed as an output of exposure to specific risk and/or protective factors that have been previously correlated with such behavior. Prevention programs are then configured to reduce these risk factors and support protective factors, and a well-developed inventory of protocols has evolved for implementing and evaluating program components around risk/protective factors to be addressed. Thus the model has a “discursive coherence” that fits well with quantitative evaluation methodologies and with public agency needs for accountability and evidence of program success. It does not, however, provide a sufficient explanation for violence behavior, and only a few programs based on this model have actually shown that they reduce youth violence itself. Lost in the risk and protective factor framework is an agent-centered perspective that comprehends how youth exposed to many risk factors construct their own social position, and what role violent behavior may then have within that understanding of social position. One such agent-centered perspective focuses on the connections between violent behavior and adolescent identity development. This paper explores that connection as documented in several qualitative research efforts, and how it might be utilized in the development of agent-centered prevention efforts. Specific examples are discussed.

Keywords: Youth Violence, Adolescent Identity, Theory, Prevention

The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Volume 2, Issue 5, pp.91-104. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 619.074KB).

Dr. Mark Edberg

Associate Professor, Department of Prevention and Community Health, George Washington University, Washington, DC, USA

Dr. Edberg is an applied and academic cultural anthropologist with over 18 years of significant experience in social research, primarily in public health. In addition to teaching, he has been Principal Investigator or Co-Principal Investigator on a number of innovative qualitative and combined qualitative/quantitative research efforts funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Agency, and other agencies. Much of his work has focused on high risk populations and on issues related to poverty, including HIV/AIDS, violence prevention, minority health, and other issues. He has written a numerous articles and two books, one on social/behavioral theory and the other on ethnographic work in the U.S.-Mexico border region.

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