“You Get Caught Up”: Youth Decision-Making and Violence
Violence is a major cause of morbidity and mortality among adolescents. We conducted serial focus groups with 30 youth from a violence prevention program to discuss violence in their community. We identified four recurrent themes characterizing participant experiences regarding peer decision-making related to violence: (1) youth pursue respect, among other typical tasks of adolescence; (2) youth pursue respect as a means to achieve personal safety; (3) youth recognize pervasive risks to their safety, frequently focusing on the prevalence of firearms; and (4) as youth balance achieving respect in an unsafe setting with limited opportunities, they express conflict and frustration. Participants recognize that peers achieve peer-group respect through involvement in unsafe or unhealthy behavior including violence; however they perceive limited alternative opportunities to gain respect. These findings suggest that even very high risk youth may elect safe and healthy alternatives to violence if these opportunities are associated with respect and other adolescent tasks of development.