Violence vs. Nonviolence, Affects on Youth

image credit: Jean Scheijen

If you look up information on nonviolence or violence, hundreds of links come up that include information on the media or on youth or both. Mostly because of the high percentage of young people who act out violently as compared to the rest of the population; violence is the second leading cause of death from young people of any race from age 15 to 25. (University of Michigan, 2008) It is so powerful to witness or experience violence for young people that either position creates biological changes for teens, changes which can lead to high blood pressure and high levels or cortisol (the “fight or flight” hormone) later in life. (Aphrodite, Women’s Health)

And despite how dire that might sound, more recent information out of the University of Michigan says that “a substantial body of literature now exists in violence prevention that disproves the myth that violence is “inevitable.” Youth violence can be viewed through the same lens as medical professionals view other diseases, implicating and treating a wide range of risk and protective factors and setting aside common myths.” What tends to help are positive reinforcement through social skills training and family training. What doesn’t help are programs that invite youths to tour hospital trauma bays, gun buy-back programs, and the like. According to the University of Michigan article the programs that did work help ease environmental stressors for youth who’ve had violent experiences.

Yoga and meditation are also a way of building steady resilience within young people. A program out of Baltimore, Holistic Life Foundation, which in addition to the in-school and afterschool yoga programs, offers mentoring, tutoring, homework assistance, gardening, environmental advocacy, hip-hop in the neighborhoods, and basketball in the parks, has supported at-risk student in effectively reducing their stressors and need to act out. One of the founders, Ali Smith, states, “We want to cultivate the feeling of being interconnected with other people and the environment, so we take the kids on field trips, camping, growing food. When they’re out in nature, they feel connected to the planet. When they grow food in the garden we started in the neighborhood, they see the fruits of their labors. Meditation is about coming out of isolation and getting connected to something big.”

For more information:

University of Michigan: The Prevention of Violent Injury Among Youth

Aphrodite, Women’s Health: Violence Has Lasting Effect on Health of Teens

Shambhala Sun: Inner City, Inner Peace

Holistic Life Foundation 

Original articles posted in Aphrodite, Women’s Health (2005), University of Michigan (2008), and Shambhala Sun (2011).


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