Troubled Teen Options

Patterns of Adolescent Violence

Situational Violence

Situational violence is related to specific situations that apparently function as catalysts that lead to the violent act and increase its seriousness. Among these catalysts are extreme heat, weekends, times of social stress, frustration in pursuing planned events, unavoidable accidents or events, poverty, social discrimination and oppression, availability of handguns, and alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use. This type of violence accounts for more than 25 percent of adolescent violence in the United States.

Relational Violence

Relational violence "arises from interpersonal disputes between persons with ongoing relationships, in particular among friends and family members" (p.9). Children who witness violence between their parents are at increased risk to act violently toward and among other children. For adolescents, dating violence is an especially serious form of relational violence. Relational violence accounts for about 25 percent of adolescent violence, and it apparently has its basis in both social and psychological factors.

Predatory Violence

Predatory violence, which accounts for only 5 to 8 percent of total adolescent violent acts, includes crimes such as muggings, robbery, and gang assaults that are "perpetrated intentionally to obtain some gain or as part of a pattern of criminal or antisocial behavior" (p.9). It is estimated that about 20 percent of adolescents commit some acts of predatory violence, but that only 5 to 8 percent of males and 3 to 6 percent of females in this group are responsible for most predatory violence. Predatory violence has been studied more than any of the other three types of violence. Researchers have found that it is often part of a pattern of serious chronic antisocial behavior, is predictable, and generally starts in early adolescence and develops slowly over time. It lasts long after adolescence, is dependent on multiple risk factors, and requires intensive and early prevention and treatment interventions (p. 9).

Psychopathological Violence

Psychopathological violence accounts for less than 1 percent of adolescent violence in the U.S., but it is a particularly virulent form. It is generally more repetitive and extreme than the other types of violence, and it is the clearest example of individual psychopathology that is probably related to neurological deficits and/or psychological trauma. It is generally seen as a by-product of mental illness rather than as a response to situational factors or a sign of a developing criminal career. Unlike interventions appropriate for perpetrators of other types of violence, psychopharmacology and various management techniques are often indicated for this population. (p. 11)

Text cited from:

Tolan and Guerra cite the 1986 work of Elliott and his colleagues in stressing that "not all adolescent violence is of the same form or cause or will be best addressed by the same response" (1994, p. 7). They go on to cite other researchers as they delineate four patterns of adolescent