, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp 61-77

The Role of Families and Care Givers as Risk and Protective Factors in Preventing Youth Violence

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This paper reviews research which discusses the risk and protective functions that families and other caregivers provide in influencing the development of aggressive behavior in youth. Currently, there is an emphasis on providing violence prevention programs in the school environment, typically with little parental or caregiver involvement. By enhancing the role of families and caregivers in youth violence prevention programs, we assert that an unique opportunity exists to both address specific risk factors for violence while enhancing the protective features of the family. Relatedly, the risk literature on youth violence indicates that the most influential risk factors (i.e., the family, community, and peers) have their principle impact on youth aggression outside the school. We suggest a shift in the focus of violence prevention programming that is more inclusive of families as both a risk and protective agent. In support of this position, relevant theory and reviews of exemplary family-involved programs are offered. Challenges to involving youth caregivers are identified and recommendations for overcoming those challenges suggested. Last, recommendations for future research and public policy in the prevention of youth violence are offered.