Youth Centric: Assessing and preventing severe youth violence

Professor Tina Malti
Wednesday, January 4, 2017 - 1:20pm
Carla DeMarco
Psychology researcher’s expertise on youth violence guides special edition of prestigious journal.

Violent occurrences at high schools and among adolescents is disconcertingly prevalent, and the topic is a particular focus for U of T Mississauga Psychology Professor Tina Malti, who has edited a new Special Section of the journal Child Development, entitled “Severe Youth Violence: Developmental Perspectives.”

“Severe violence in youth is one of the most protracted social problems that costs our society much anguish, and destroys enormous social capital,” says Malti. “This issue was motivated by the belief that there now is a research base that is highly applicable to the many factors that produce youth violence. Not only can we increase successes in prevention and intervention, also at an early age predicting who will be most at risk. But we can also create the conditions for the opposite developmental pathways, those of empathy, perspective, purpose and positive school and work outcomes.” 

The concerns associated with severe youth violence (SYV), which includes offenses such as aggravated assault, rape, murder, and robbery committed by adolescents, are extensive, especially in relation to the way it has been shown to be widespread among youth and also a 2014 World Health Organization report that listed homicide as the fourth leading cause worldwide of death among 15-29 year olds.

The collection of articles that are featured in this journal investigates a range of topics including the developmental course of decision-making and emotional responses among youth who commit violent offenses, as well as the role of gender in violence. They also focus on how to better screen and assess SYV risk and inform new ways to prevent it, along with examining possible paths of effective intervention.

SYV costs billions of dollars annually for criminal justice system expenses, as well as the significant negative outcomes for victims and agents of violent behavior, which can include physical and mental health consequences, as well as reduced life expectancy, and, specific to the offenders, retaliatory cycles of violence.   

For media inquiries please contact Hannah Klein (hklein@srcd.org), and to find out more about the work in Professor Tina Malti’s Lab, please visit her website, http://www.tinamalti.com/