Almost 25 percent of teens admit to being in a fight within the past year, but new research suggests that parents can play an important role in preventing physical violence.
“Fighting can lead to serious injuries and even death, so we felt it was important to identify effective ways to prevent physical altercations among adolescents,” said the study’s lead researcher and corresponding author, Dr. Rashmi Shetgiri, from the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center.
“Most violence-prevention programs focus on school-based interventions with little involvement of families. This study suggests that it is crucial to involve families, especially parents, in violence-prevention programs,” Shetgiri said in an institute news release.
Researchers conducted focus groups involving parents of black and Latino teens to address higher rates of violence reported among young people in these groups. There were a total of 17 participants and 76 percent of them were women. The parents had teens between 13 and 17 years old, and lived in urban areas.
All of the parents involved in the focus groups believed that fighting prevention begins at home. The Latino parents, in particular, believed that parents are the greatest influence in teaching kids about resolving conflicts in nonviolent ways.
Some of the black parents in the focus groups felt fighting was sometimes necessary. Although they supported nonviolent methods of resolving conflicts, they expressed doubts about how well these strategies would actually work. These parents also suggested corporal punishment as one way to stop kids from fighting, but acknowledged this isn’t a long-term solution, the study authors said.
Latino parents also said they taught their kids the consequences of fighting as well as how to control their emotions and settle disputes without fighting. Still, they also saw physical violence as a last resort, the researchers said.
Previous research suggests these views are likely associated with more violence among teens, the study’s authors noted. Addressing parents’ attitudes about fighting, engaging them in violence-prevention programs and tailoring programs to different racial or ethnic groups might help deter teen violence, the researchers said.
“In addition to addressing parental views about fighting, our study suggests that teaching parents and adolescents how to effectively use nonviolent methods to resolve conflicts and increasing their use of these methods may help reduce violent altercations among African-American and Latino teens,” said Shetgiri.
She added that the researchers also felt it would be beneficial to include all influential members of a teen’s community, from teachers to peers, in efforts to prevent fighting.
The study was published online recently in the Journal of Child and Family Studies.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides more information on how to prevent youth violence .