Preventing another Columbine: Youth violence prevention conference


Meeting set for April 23-26 at Rockefeller University, Caspary Auditorium

Tragedies like the Columbine school shooting have highlighted the problem of violent acts committed by adolescents and young adults. The general public and media often view the phenomenon as a moral or social issue. Recently, however, researchers in the field of neuroscience, biology, anthropology, and psychiatry have joined forces to examine the causes of adolescent violence from a public health perspective.

To examine the roots of youth violence and discuss the latest strategies for preventing interpersonal violence among youth, the New York Academy of Sciences is sponsoring a three-day conference, Scientific Approaches to Youth Violence Prevention, on April 24 26 at the Caspary Auditorium at The Rockefeller University, New York, NY. More than 20 experts from a variety of disciplines are expected to attend, including scientists from countries such as the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Canada.

The conference will highlight important new findings in the study of youth violence. Experts believe that violence is the product of the interaction among a variety of biological, psychological, and social variables. The economic, cultural, and historical processes underlying youth interpersonal violence will be examined in detail. Using the public health model, the conference will stress the importance of preventive, as opposed to merely retributive, approaches to the problem.

"For some time, the social and biological sciences have focused their attention on the issue of youth violence and on strategies for preventing it," said Dr. John Devine, co-organizer and Coordinator of the Comprehensive School Safety Project for the Center for Social and Emotional Education in New York City. "This conference represents a rare opportunity for true interdisciplinary dialogue."

The symposium will be of interest to researchers and practitioners with a variety of interests and backgrounds, including neuroscientists, pediatricians, psychiatrists, psychologists, healthcare specialists, counselors, educators, and others with an interest in interpersonal violence.

Divided into four plenary sessions, the conference is organized along the classical model in public health (i.e., primary, secondary and tertiary strategies): Tactics Aimed at Transforming Societal Institutions and Practices That Foster Violence; Tactics That Apply to At Risk Individuals; and Tertiary Prevention: Tactics That Apply to Adolescents Who Have Already Exhibited Violent Behaviors.

Ronald Dahl of the University of Pittsburgh will deliver the keynote presentation entitled "Adolescent Brain Development: A Period of Vulnerabilities and Opportunities".

Topics will include:

  • Sociocultural Structures and Determinants of Violence
  • Community and Family Violence, and Adolescent Development: Effective Interventions
  • Early Life Trauma and the Psychogenesis of Violence
  • Male and Female Adolescent Rites and Social Behavior
  • The Bystander Role of Teachers and Students in the Social Architecture of Bullying and Violence in Schools
  • Conducting "Anti-Prisons"
  • The Behavioral Economics of Violence
  • Genetics, Early Life Experiences and Violence: Preventive Strategies
  • Cost Effective Violence Prevention Through Targeted Family Interventions
  • Serotonin and Aggression
  • Violent Encounters in Apes and Humans: Learning From Our Evolutionary Past
  • Role of Alcohol Consumption in Escalations to Violence
  • Pharmacotherapeutic Approaches and Opportunities

The conference co-organizers are: John Devine, Center for Social and Emotional Education, New York, NY; James Gilligan, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA; Klaus A. Miczek, Tufts University, Medford, MA; Donald Pfaff, The Rockefeller University, New York, NY; and Rashid Shaikh, New York Academy of Sciences, New York, NY.

The Mushett Family Foundation is a co-sponsor of this conference; the Marion E. Kenworthy Sarah H. Swift Foundation, Inc., also provided financial support.

On March 11, WNYC's "The Leonard Lopate Show," featured a discussion about youth violence with Dr. Rashid Shaikh, Director of Academy Programs, which can be viewed at

For more info, visit

The proceedings of this conference will be published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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