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Teen Aggression

That threat of suicide could mean much more than you imagine. Read on to know the whys and hows of teen violence.

'Thirty-three killed in sudden university shoot-out by student'
'21-year-old held for rash driving and culpable homicide'
'Teen held for burning and graffiti painting of Church'
'Teen suicide bomber kills three, wounds dozens'
'Teen commits suicide after sexual molestation'

Gory headlines of teenage aggression scream at you from newspapers and voices of newscasters, every moment. A subtler manifestation of the same aggression occurs in your own home—when your youngster shouts at you hysterically, when he stays out all night, when he slams doors, and breaks chairs on being denied something.

What lies behind the increasing incidence of violence among adolescents? Moreover, what are you, as a parent, going to do about it?

Forms of Teen Aggression

School shootings are an extreme form of aggression among teenagers. However, teen violence can take many other forms. Ragging, bullying, fighting, and gang rivalry also constitute violence. Suicide bombing and suicides among youngsters have a high incidence. Rape and molestation are other expressions of violent behaviour. Aggression can manifest through arson, destruction of property, and any kind of vandalism. Other expressions of aggression include cruelty to animals and uncontrollable outbursts of anger or tantrums at home.


Social psychology states that violence is a learned behaviour. There are no born criminals. Children observe violence in people around them and imitate them accordingly. They may also assimilate hostile ideas through the media. Destructive lyrics in rap and rock songs may be doing more damage to your teenager than you realise.

These days, violent computer and video games have become immensely popular among youngsters. This may be a cause as well as effect of teen violence. Research studies have proven that the aggression rate in teenagers can rise substantially if they are exposed to the following risk factors:

  • Subjection to physical or sexual abuse: Even corporal punishment qualifies as physical abuse and studies have shown that it is counter-productive.

  • Violent behaviour at home or in society: Children from families where wife-beating may occur or from broken families are more likely to be aggressive as adolescents.

  • Violence in the media: There is a glut of songs with self-defeating lyrics, movies that depict extreme violence, assassination games, books with violent content, etc. It may be difficult to wean your teenager off these but the effort is worthwhile.

  • Drug abuse, smoking and/or alcohol addiction: This is a problem that requires serious and immediate action. If you or your partner smoke or drink regularly, consider quitting for the sake of your teenager. Monitor the company your child keeps. If you suspect drug abuse, check your teenager's bags and pockets. The earlier you act, the more effective it will be.

  • Guns or other firearms at home: This may well be the most important risk factor. Consider this: If you have a gun in your home, you are five times more likely to have a suicide in your house than homes without a gun. If you must have one, keep it out of reach of your children. Try not to let them know of its presence. Keep it locked at all times.

  • Finally, socio-economic factors like poverty, severe deprivation, unstable family, single-parent family, unemployment, lack of family support may also play a role in inciting teenage aggression.

Warning Signs

Prevention is always better than cure. Look out for the following signs in your adolescent. Remember, the more signs you perceive, the higher the threat. However, not all teens who exhibit some of these signs may resort to violence.

  • Verbal or written threats of violence—take everything that your teen says seriously.

  • History of aggression—this includes uncontrollable angry outbursts at home or other delinquent behaviour.

  • Taking a weapon to school—do not let your teen carry knives or guns outside, whatever the excuse.

  • Suicide attempts or threats in the past—the unfortunate truth is that once you have a problem with your adolescent, you will always have to be on your toes.

  • History of violent behaviour or suicide attempts in the family—family remains the primary unit of socialisation.

  • Lack of responsibility—be alert if your teen always blames destiny or other people for his mistakes and misfortunes. We all do it at times but to assume such a role persistently, in every situation, can lead to an eventual lack of self-confidence and self-reliance.

  • An incident causing humiliation, loss, shame, or rejection in recent times—you may believe that your child has moved on but teenagers can be excellent actors. Stay connected to your child to be aware of what is playing in his mind.

  • Morbidity in conversation, selection of books or movies, artwork, etc.—a preoccupation with death, depression, violence, and other dark themes may indicate mental turmoil.

  • A mental illness, such as depression, mania, psychosis, or bipolar disorder—such individuals are always at a high risk of aggressive behaviour.

  • Indiscipline at school or college—this may consist of bullying or beating up, impertinence, stealing, copying answers, vandalising benches or walls, cutting class, etc.

  • Difficulty in making friends; feeling anchorless—this leads to feeling unfulfilled emotionally, which incites the teenager to seek an outlet in violence. Inability to make friends can tarnish self-esteem as well.

  • Being part of a gang or cult—as long as it is for harmless or entertainment purposes, this should not be a problem. But if the gang engages in antisocial activities or even if it discusses make-believe plans inspired by dacoit or heist movies, it can act as a precursor to serious violence.

  • Over-protection or apathy from parents—both can be detrimental to your teen. Over-protection can stifle and retard the development of the child while indifference can make the teenager feel unloved and unwanted.

  • Irrationality—if your teen refuses to listen to reason and believes that her every wish should be granted, you have a problem at hand.

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