Expert Panel Calls for New Research Approach to Prevent Youth Violence

Recommendations published in a supplement to the American Journal of Preventive Medicine

San Diego, CA, July 17, 2012 - Most research into youth violence has sought to understand the risk factors that increase the likelihood of violence.Now, a federal panel has called for a new research approach to identify the protective factors that would reduce the likelihood that violence will happen.Grounded in the tools and insights of public health, the approach calls for studies that can guide the development of prevention strategies to reduce or eliminate risk factors, and add or enhance protective factors.The findings of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Expert Panel on Protective Factors for Youth Violence are published in a supplement to the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Homicide continues to be the second leading cause of death for youth ages 15-24, and the leading cause of death for African American youth. More than 700,000 young people ages 10 to 24 were treated in emergency departments in 2010 for injuries sustained due to violence. But responding to violence after it happens is only part of the solution. Youth violence must be prevented before it begins. In addition, most youth, even those living in high risk situations, are not violent and more must be learned about the factors that are helping youth, protecting them from engaging in violent behavior so that others can benefit. One critical step is a better understanding of the factors that protect youth from engaging in violence.

"We can prevent youth violence and have specific ways to address the current challenges that youth violence creates,” said Jeff Hall, PhD, MSPH, guest editor and a behavioral scientist in the Division of Violence Prevention, which is housed in CDC’s National Injury Center. “Our hope is this work will inform the ability of prevention efforts to reduce risk and enhance strengths within youth, their peer groups, families, schools, and communities to prevent violence."

This special supplement, which is the first publication developed from the panel’s work, is designed to increase understanding of protective factors for youth violence perpetration by clarifying methods for conceptualizing, measuring, and distinguishing risk and protective effects.

Highlights from the supplement include:

  • Protective factors can potentially work by directly reducing the likelihood of violence or by buffering against other risk factors.
  • Some factors display both risk and protective effects. For example, at least one study showed that low academic achievement was associated with increased risk for violence while high academic achievement was protective.
  • For other factors, the strength of their effects on youth violence depends on their level and may be greater at some levels than others.
    • For example, high levels of school attachment (e.g., looking forward to going to school, liking school, liking the teacher, and liking a class) decreased the odds of violent behavior but low school attachment was not associated with violence / did not increase the odds of violent behavior.
    • Some factors may thus have a protective effect without any corresponding risk effect and vice versa.
  • The influence of protective factors and the form of their relationship with violence perpetration may vary across settings, forms of violence (e.g., physical fighting, verbal aggression), and by age. Prevention strategies should be designed to enhance the influences that are most critical among the intended recipients.
  • Direct protective effects were least likely to occur alone, and more likely to occur in combination with risk effects. Risk effects were most likely to occur without an accompanying protective effect.

Youth violence is a complex problem that is influenced by a range of modifiable risk and protective factors. High-quality partnerships among community collaborators, practitioners, and prevention researchers are necessary to understand local needs, select effective prevention strategies, and effectively implement and sustain those strategies.

The supplement is freely available at


Notes for editors
Full text of articles published in this supplement is available to credentialed journalists upon request; contact Beverly Lytton at + 1 858 534 9340 or or go to Journalists wishing to interview the guest editors or authors may contact Gail Hayes, CDC Injury Center Senior Press Officer via phone +1 770 488 4902 or email

Protective Factors for Youth Violence Perpetration: Issues, Evidence, and Public Health Implications
Guest Editors: Jeffrey E. Hall, PhD, MSPH, Division of Violence Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, CDC; Richard F. Catalano, PhD, University of Washington, School of Social Work; Rolf Loeber, PhD, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center; David P. Farrington, PhD, Institute of Criminology, Cambridge University.American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Volume 43/2 S1 (August 2012).Publication of this supplement was supported by Cooperative Agreement award # CIP-08-001 from the CDC to the Association for Prevention Teaching and Research (APTR).

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Expert Panel on Protective Factors for Youth Violence Perpetration:Background and Overview, Jeffrey E. Hall, PhD, MSPH, Thomas R. Simon, PhD, James Mercy, PhD, Rolf Loeber, PhD, David Farrington, PhD, Rosalyn Lee, PhD

Direct Protective and Buffering Protective Factors in the Development of Youth Violence, Friedrich Lösel, PhD, David P. Farrington, PhD
Advancing Knowledge about Direct Protective Factors That May Reduce Youth Violence, Rolf Loeber, PhD, David P. Farrington, PhD
Identifying Direct Protective Factors for Nonviolence, Dustin A. Pardini, PhD, Rolf Loeber, PhD, David P. Farrington, PhD, Magda Stouthamer-Loeber, PhD
Risk Versus Direct Protective Factors and Youth Violence: Seattle Social Development Project, Todd I. Herrenkohl, PhD, Jungeun Lee, PhD, J. David Hawkins, PhD
Risk and Direct Protective Factors for Youth Violence: Results from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, Debra Bernat, PhD, J. Michael Oakes, PhD, Sandra L. Pettingell, PhD, Michael Resnick, PhD
Risk and Direct Protective Factors for Youth Violence: Results from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Multisite Violence Prevention Project, David B. Henry, PhD, Patrick H. Tolan, PhD, Deborah Gorman-Smith, PhD, Michael E. Schoeny, PhD

Implications of Direct Protective Factors for Public Health Research and Prevention Strategies to Reduce Youth Violence, Jeffrey E. Hall PhD, MSPH, Thomas R. Simon, PhD, Rosalyn D. Lee, PhD, James A. Mercy PhD

About the American Journal of Preventive Medicine
The American Journal of Preventive Medicine ( is the official journal of The American College of Preventive Medicine ( and the Association for Prevention Teaching and Research ( It publishes articles in the areas of prevention research, teaching, practice and policy. Original research is published on interventions aimed at the prevention of chronic and acute disease and the promotion of individual and community health. The journal features papers that address the primary and secondary prevention of important clinical, behavioral and public health issues such as injury and violence, infectious disease, women's health, smoking, sedentary behaviors and physical activity, nutrition, diabetes, obesity, and alcohol and drug abuse. Papers also address educational initiatives aimed at improving the ability of health professionals to provide effective clinical prevention and public health services. The journal also publishes official policy statements from the two co-sponsoring organizations, health services research pertinent to prevention and public health, review articles, media reviews, and editorials.

The American Journal of Preventive Medicine, with an Impact Factor of 4.044, is ranked 12th out of 157 Public, Environmental and Occupational Health titles and 17th out of 153 General & Internal Medicine titles according to 2011 Journal Citation Reports®published by Thomson Reuters.

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