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Violence Prevention

Violence Prevention: Addressing this Issue in Childhood

Trisha Ruby, Alison Scheiderer,

Anne Osberger, Sondra Munves,

Gina Ligori, Jackie Webel

Defining Violence

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) defines violence as "the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death psychological harm, maldevelopment or deprivation" (CDC, 2004).

Youth Violence has become an epidemic in the U.S. …

Homicide is the second leading cause of death among young people ages 10-24 years.

In a nationwide survey, 17% of students reported carrying a weapon (e.g. gun, knife, or club) on one or more days in the 30 days preceding the survey

(CDC, 2004)

In an average month, public secondary schools nationwide experience 525,000 attacks, shakedowns and robberies and 125,000 threats against teachers (Comm. For Prevention of Youth Violence, 2004).

Among students nationwide, 33% reported being in a physical fight one or more times in the 12 months preceding the survey (CDC, 2004).

American children die by suicide, homicide and gunfire at a greater rate than children in 25 other industrialized nations (, 1997).

According to the CDC, even if firearms-related homicides were excluded, the U.S. had a homicide rate for children almost 4 times the other countries’ rates (, 1997).

Who Is At Risk?

"P" Risk Factors:

Attention deficits/hyperactivity

Antisocial beliefs and attitudes

History of early aggressive behavior

Involvement with drugs, alcohol and tobacco

Racial/ethnic minorities attending urban schools

Low IQ

Poor behavioral control

Social cognitive or information-processing deficits

(CDC, 2004)

"E" Risk Factors:

Exposure to violence and family conflict

Being a victim of abuse or neglect (physical, sexual, emotional)

Authoritarian childrearing attitudes

Little or no supervision/support from parents or caregivers


Socially disorganized neighborhoods

Low community participation

(CDC, 2004)

(National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center [NYPVRC], 2002)

"O" Risk Factors:

Preoccupation with violence in media

Lack of involvement in conventional activities

Poor peer relationships

Poor academic performance

Involvement in gangs/association with delinquent peers

(CDC, 2004)

(NYVPRC, 2002)

Controversy Surrounding Youth Violence

How are children exposed to violence?

Home Environment

School Environment


What can we do?

Harsher punishments

Increased security in schools

Rehabilitative treatment

Family/community education

Prevention programs

Government Policies

Gun Free Schools Act (1994) – in order to receive federal funding a state must suspend any student carrying a firearm on school premises for at least one year.

Safe Schools/Healthy Students Initiative – discretionary grants awarded to set up community programs involving schools and other agencies to foster healthy development and violence prevention.

(U.S. Dept of Education, 2004)

AOTA Position

Views youth violence as a grave public health issue that must addressed through prevention

OT’s are uniquely qualified to be at the forefront of this issue due to our involvement with students, teachers and families.

(Johansson, 2004).

Role for OT’s

"OT practitioners could plan activity groups centered on motivating, esteem-building, pro-social activities…to help youths identify, express and re-channel troubling emotions, before violence is seen as the only alternative. OT’s could…help educate parents about child and teen development milestones, and suggest ways to strengthen the parent/child bond"

(Johansson, 2004)

Characteristics of Successful Programs

Parent training and education, or family therapy

Changing the home environment as well as the school environment

Teacher training

Active student participation

Broad community involvement


Giving kids skills – cognitive, behavioral, psychosocial

Early intervention

(Center for Study and Prevention of Violence, 2004)

Just days before the Columbine school shooting in Littleton, CO, Dr.Carolyn Baum addressed OTs at the annual AOTA conference, stating that occupational therapy has a role in the schools going far beyond facilitating education. OTs can address social behavior problems, violence, and suicide that are so prevalent in America’s youth.

Reference List

Johansson, C. (2004). OT Prescription for School Violence. American Occupational Therapy Association. [Online]. Available:

National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center. (2004). Youth Firearm-Related Violence. [Online]. Available:

United States Department of Education. (2004). Safe Schools/Healthy Students Discretionary Grants. [Online]. Available:


"Occupational therapy is the critical link between activity and social participation."
~Dr. Carolyn Baum