Violence is complicated and results from a combination of multiple influences on behavior. It is about how individuals relate to those around them and to their broader environment.  Research on bases of youth violence occurrence and preventative strategies is pertinent. While there have been many studies that identify effective preventative strategies, there is still an inconsistency among conducted studies regarding the level of understanding of youth violence and the use of evaluations and interventions that are most effective to improve prevention strategies. Further studies conducted on efforts to address this inconsistency have identified a connection between understanding youth violence, evidence of its origins, and intervention strategies (Tenkasi and Hay, 2004).  

In order to prevent violence, it is important to implement programs and strategies that can reduce risk factors and increase protective factors at social, community, relationship, and individual level.  Previous studies suggest that violence is about how individuals relate to those around them and to their broader environment. Research has also identified a number of factors that put children and adolescents at risk of engaging in violence and other problem behaviors and some factors that seem to protect them from the effects of risk (Surgeon General’s Report on Youth Violence, 2001).  In other words, protective factors are conditions or attributes that buffer risk factors. Problematic behaviors are defined as those behaviors that put young people’s health and development in jeopardy.  Some examples of problematic behavior include violence, aggression, bullying, gang involvement, truancy and substance use.  To effectively prevent problematic behavior and support positive youth development, it is critical to understand and address the risk and protective factors that predict these behaviors. Risk and protective factor profiles are grouped into 4 key domains: community, family, school, peer, and individual.

Current legislative policies and studies specific to youth violence and aggressive behavior have been attributed to inadequate education, bias legislative policies, and lack of access to adequate mental health care among ethnic minorities. This demonstrates the education and criminal justice systems’ ineffectiveness in reducing youth violence.  New innovative approaches to research addressing prevention or reducing aggressive and violent behavior among youth need to be evaluated and developed from a multicultural perspective. 

Lastly, ethnic minorities rarely receive or seek mental health treatment due to stigmas toward the quality of care and lack of awareness about the detriments of untreated mental illnesses.  As more background information was collected on this particular disparity it was found that there is a limited amount of research about this topic.  However, the collected information assisted in identifying a need for effective interventions and innovative prevention strategies to combat such a significant disparity as youth violence.  Developing programs with an engaging, integrative curriculum will help to gain a more comprehensive understanding of precursors to aggressive and violent behavior among youth.  

Youth violence is undoubtedly a public health crisis in the United States (U.S.). Violence is a leading cause of death among youth ages 10 to 24 years (Duke& Borowski, 2015). Specifically, homicide is the third leading cause of death of young people, with an average of 16 youth murdered every day (U.S. Department of Justice, 2011). Nashville’s homicide rate among youth has increased tremendously almost doubling 2014’s rate of 41 homicides with a total of approximately 80 homicides in 2015.  Metropolitan Nashville Police Department (MNPD) reported that more than 12 of the city’s 80 homicide victims were under the age of 18 years old; 36 were ages 18 years old to 25 years old; and the average age charged in 2015’s homicide cases were 24 years old or younger including one who was only 12 years old.  The 2015 homicide rate in Nashville marked the highest in the city since 2009 and the highest number of youth deaths in the past decade (Tennessean, 2016).

With a massive surge in youth violence, undoubtedly, there is a public health crisis in the city of Nashville which absolutely requires immediate action from the public, community leaders, legislators, and other civic organizations.  In fact, so much so, that Nashville’s newly elected mayor, Megan Barry, has made a call to action to reduce violent crimes among youth, encouraging efficient, innovative solutions. According to the Tennessean (2016), Nashville ranked far above similar peer cities for youths age 19 and younger killed last year.  Nashville’s youth are becoming victims of lethal crimes at a rate that exceeds similarly sized cities such as Oakland, California and ten times that of El Paso, Texas.  

The issue: Nashville's excessive youth violence

(Photo: Samuel M. Simpkins/Tennessean, 2015)