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Urban youths’ perspectives on violence and the necessity of fighting
  1. S B Johnson1,
  2. S Frattaroli1,
  3. J L Wright2,
  4. C B Pearson-Fields3,
  5. T L Cheng4
  1. 1The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
  2. 2Division of Emergency Medicine and Trauma Services, Children’s National Medical Center, and George Washington University Schools of Medicine and Public Health, Washington, DC, USA
  3. 3Mautner Project, Washington, DC, USA
  4. 4Division of General Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
  1. Correspondence to:
 Ms S B Johnson
 624 N Broadway, 5th Floor, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA;


Objectives: To assess youth perceptions of the causes and consequences of violence generally, the causes and consequences of fighting specifically, and to determine how best to approach fighting in the context of violence prevention activities.

Methods: Thirteen structured focus group interviews with youths from three high violence urban settings: a large, urban high school, a training center for disadvantaged youths, and a school for adjudicated youths. Participants were 120 urban, predominately African-American youths and young adults ages 14–22 years (mean: 17.2 years). Seven focus groups were conducted with females, and six with males.

Results: Adolescents identified the causes of violence on multiple levels including: individual, family, interpersonal, and community level factors. Most youths (89%) had been in a physical fight. Participants felt that fighting was not “right”, but identified situations in which it was necessary. Specifically, fighting was used as a problem solving tool, and could prevent escalation of violence. Youths felt that the adults in their lives, including physicians, were generally ill equipped to give advice about violence, as adults’ experiences were so removed from their own. Participants looked to experienced role models to offer problem solving and harm reduction strategies. Youths were open to receiving anticipatory guidance about violence and fighting from primary care physicians they felt comfortable with, and who showed respect for their experiences.

Conclusions: Interventions that include blanket admonitions against fighting should be reassessed in light of youth perceptions that fighting plays a complex role in both inciting and preventing more serious violence.

  • youth violence
  • fighting
  • focus groups

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