Learning Exercise

Children and Violence

For this application, students are to visit web sites related to the topic of children and violence and write an essay addressing the following topics: The magnitude of violence among children; Risk factors and possible “causes” of violence; The development of children who become violent; Warning signs of violence among children; and Prevention/Intervention strategies that can be used by parents, teachers, and others who work with children.

A report on youth violence prepared by the Department of Health and Human Services under the direction of the Office of... see more


Children and Violence

Activity submitted to MERLOT by Beverly R. King, PhD, Department of Psychology & Counseling, University of North Carolina at Pembroke

E-mail concerning this activity should be sent to: beverly.king@uncp.edu

A matter of great and obvious concern in our contemporary society is the spate of school shootings that has occurred in recent years. In 1998, for example, a fifteen-year-old boy murdered his parents and then went on a shooting spree at this high school in Springfield, Oregon, killing two students and wounding twenty-five others. In 1999, two teenagers killed twelve high school students and a teacher before killing themselves in a shooting rampage at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. How can we understand and explain these outbursts of violence? How does the research in developmental psychology inform us about these incidents?

Were they born bad, from bad “stock”? Did a childhood of exposure to media violence turn then into “monsters”? How about being rejected by their peers, made fun of because of their size or weight, or “dumped” by a girl? What has the availability of handguns got to do with their crimes? What role do parents (e.g., abusive parents) play in leading them to be murderers? Are their brains and emotions so different that they unflinchingly, deliberately, and proudly take aim at classmates and teachers—without remorse? Criminological research tells us that there are many risk factors for violence, and the more risks a child encounters, the greater the likelihood he (“he” because 90 percent of all violent crimes are committed by males) may become a menace to society.

For this application, you are to visit the primary web site listed below as well as some of the supplemental web sites and write an essay on Children and Violence addressing the following topics in your essay: The magnitude of violence among children; Risk factors and possible “causes” of violence (be careful how youinterpret research on violence in that most will report factors correlated with violence rather than factors that cause violence); The development of children who become violent; Warning signs of violence among children; Prevention/Intervention strategies that can be used by parents, teachers, and others who work with children. Please introduce the answers to each of these questions with a bullet or subheading. Do not directly quote from the Web sites; rather, you should read the information, make some notes, and then write an essay that reflects a summary of the information you read along with your own thoughts and theories on the issue. Make sure that you substantiate your theories with information from your reading.

Primary web site for this assignment:


A comprehensive look at the magnitude of the problem, risk factors, developmental and social dynamics, prevention/interventions strategies, and a vision for the future.

Supplemental web sites for this assignment:


From the APA Commission on Violence and Youth


Article on the 2005 Minnesota school shootings


A special presentation of the NY Times, featuring a database of information about incidents, articles on the social and legal issues, a discussion forum, and a guide to online resources about violence in schools.


From the APA's Public Policy Office, a discussion of some risk factors and causes of violence.


Summary of a recent study which found that left on their own, boys will play with guns even when taught not to. (USA Today, 6-20-01)


An brochure from the APA’s Public Policy office on: “Is Youth Violence Just Another Fact of Life?”


A brochure from the APA’s Public Policy office on: “Psychology of the School Shootings”


Raising Children to Resist Violence: What You Can Do

Sample grading grid for this assignment:

Paper double-spaced, with standard font size, 1” margins, 2 points;
Appropriate length (at least 2 pages), 2 points;
Evidence that visited several of the listed web sites and paraphrased within essay, 3 points;
Magnitude of violence, 2 points;
Risk factors, “causes," 2 points;
Developmental path of children who become violent, 2 points;
Warning signs, 2 points;
Prevention/intervention, 2 points;
Grammar, punctuation, & spelling, 3 points;

Total 20 points


Child Development, Violence among children and its antecedents; Violence prevention

Learning Objectives

To acquire information about warning signs of violence in children, the development of children who become violence, and prevention strategies that can be used with children who are violent.