In a new study that involved focus groups with African-American and Latino parents regarding teen violence, researchers found that, overall, Latino parents condoned fighting only as a last resort while some African-American parents stated that fighting is sometimes a necessary evil.
Findings from the study suggest that teen violence prevention programs are more successful when they involve parents in these programs and address the parents’ attitudes about fighting.
Nearly one-fourth of all teens were involved in a physical fight in the past year, with higher rates of violent altercations among African-American and Latino adolescents.
Latino parents in the study said they taught their children the consequences of fighting, how to regulate emotions, and nonviolent means for resolving disputes. And while African-American parents encouraged nonviolent methods, they expressed some doubts about the effectiveness of such strategies.
African-American parents also suggested corporal punishment as a method to prevent fighting but still acknowledged that this is only a short-term strategy.
“Fighting can lead to serious injuries and even death, so we felt it was important to identify effective ways to prevent physical altercations among adolescents,” said Rashmi Shetgiri, M.D., a Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute (LA BioMed) lead researcher and corresponding author of the study.
“Most violence prevention programs focus on school-based interventions with little involvement of families. This study suggests that it is crucial to involve families, especially parents, in violence prevention programs.”
For the study, the researchers conducted two focus groups of African-American parents and two focus groups of Latino parents of urban adolescents between the ages of 13 and 17.
Of the 17 participants, 76 percent were women. The Latino parents reported that parents are the most protective influence against fighting and that fighting prevention should start at home. African-American parents also said “teaching starts at home.”
“In addition to addressing parental views about fighting, our study suggests that teaching parents and adolescents how to effectively use nonviolent methods to resolve conflicts and increasing their use of these methods may help reduce violent altercations among African American and Latino teens,” said Shetgiri.
“We also determined that involving all the influential members of a teens’ community, from teachers to peers, would be beneficial.”
She said violence prevention programs could be more effective by tailoring them to different racial/ethnic groups. This might involve addressing African-American parents’ communications with their children about the acceptability of fighting and recognizing the influential role of the family among Latinos.
The findings are published online in the Journal of Child and Family Studies.