Urban youth violence: Do definitions and reasons for violence vary by gender?

Michael A. Yonas, Patricia O'Campo, Jessica G. Burke, Geri Peak, Andrea C. Gielen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


This study explored how young boys and girls living in low income urban neighborhoods defined and described reasons associated with youth violence. Five focus groups were conducted with 29 youth between the ages of 8 and 12 recruited from four selected study neighborhoods. Participants were asked to describe youth violence. Appropriate probes were used to explore similarities and differences by gender with regard to the reasons for violence. Definitions of youth violence were consistent across participants and included verbal threats, physical contact, and often the use of a weapon. Several common reasons for violence were found among both boys and girls; romantic relationships, respect, idle time, gangs/cliques, and witnessing violence. Reasons for violence unique to boys include fighting about issues related to money and illicit drugs. Gossip was identified as a reason specific to why girls engage in violence. Youth violence was perceived as a common problem impacting the lives of the boys and girls in this study. Although many of the reasons identified for violence are similar among boys and girls, select gender differences do exist. Future research and prevention efforts to address youth violence should engage young people in efforts to understand and address this important public health topic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)543-551
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Urban Health
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2005



  • Gender
  • Urban
  • Violence
  • Youth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Urban Studies
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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