Posted: 9/10/09

TAMIU Researchers Publish Study on Youth Violence



Parents take notice: your child is likely to behave violently if he or she has a friend who displays violent behavior, according to the results from a study completed by Texas A&M International University professors.

The article, “A Multivariate Analysis of Youth Violence and Aggression: The Influence of Family, Peers, Depression, and Media Violence,” by Dr. Christopher J. Ferguson, assistant professor, psychology, Dr. Claudia E. San Miguel, assistant professor, criminal justice, and former TAMIU assistant professor Dr. Richard Hartley, now at the University of Texas at San Antonio, is in press with the “Journal of Pediatrics.”

Dr. San Miguel explained what led them to do the study.

“We wanted to determine what factors most likely predicted violence in youth—kids ages 10 – 14 years—because even though youth violence is on the decline, the public perception is that it is increasing. Also, most studies simply look at neighborhood factors or personality. Our study is significant because it takes into consideration many factors such as the influence of delinquent friends, exposure to domestic violence in the home, family conflict, neighborhood stress,
antisocial personality traits, depression level and exposure to television and video game violence,” San Miguel said.

Dr. Ferguson concurred.

“Although it is not practically possible to consider every risk factor for violence, we wanted to look at several of the major risk favors which are discussed to see which were truly important when considered in context with each other,” he said.

The study is significant not only because it is one of the most comprehensive studies on this topic but also because it is also one of the few that deals with a predominantly Hispanic population.

The results? The best predictors of youth violence were depression and association with delinquent peers.

“Anti-social personality traits, and parental use of verbal aggression in relationships were also reasonably good predictors of youth violence,” Ferguson added.

The study looked at risk factors for violence in 603 mostly Hispanic youth in Laredo.

“One thing we looked for in some follow-up analyses is immigration status, and we found that immigration status was not found to predict violent behavior among youth,” Ferguson said.

“Perhaps more surprising, parents’ use of physical violence in romantic relationships did not predict youth violence among their youth,” he said.

“It may be that adults don’t necessarily generalize violence in their relationships onto their children. Or perhaps it is verbal cruelty that does more physical harm than physical abuse to children. Further research will be necessary to examine that,” Ferguson said.

The study was performed on both male and female children.

“Our research suggests that identifying kids who are suffering from depression and treating that, whether through therapy or psychiatric interventions, may see some subsequent reductions in aggression. At the same time, we must be careful not to profile kids and assume they will do something wrong before they have actually done so,” Ferguson suggested.

San Miguel recommended launching programs that try to introduce youths to positive role models since delinquent peer associations is one of the predictive factors for violence.

“Since depression and parental psychological abuse are also predictive factors, individual therapy and family therapy would also be beneficial,” she cautioned.

For more information, contact San Miguel at csanmiguel@tamiu.edu, call 326.2529 or visit offices in Dr. F. M. Canseco Hall (CH), room 302J or contact Ferguson at cferguson@tamiu.edu, call 326.2636 or visit offices in CH 302C.

University office hours are 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday – Friday.

Download a PDF of the study here.

Journalists who need additional information or help with media requests and interviews should contact the Office of Public Relations, Marketing and Information Services at prmis@tamiu.edu