06.12.2019

Correlates of youth violence in low- and middle-income countries: A meta-analysis

The highest rates of serious interpersonal violence occur in low-and-middle income countries (LMICs) especially in Latin America, the Caribbean, and sub–Saharan Africa. However, previous reviews of risk factors for youth violence focused almost entirely on studies from high-income countries (HICs). Rigorous synthesis of evidence is needed for LMICs.

Researchers conducted a meta-analysis of studies of youth violence in LMICs, identified by extensive searches in seven languages. Studies reporting correlates of violence perpetration in samples of 100 or more 10–29 year-olds from the general population in LMICs were included in the review.

Eighty-six studies including 480,898 individuals from 60 countries were eligible for meta-analysis. Violent outcomes included fighting, carrying a weapon and other interpersonal violent behaviors (e.g. assault). The strongest correlates of youth violence (OR ≥ 2.5) were: male sex, impulsivity, conduct problems, sexual intercourse at an early age, smoking, alcohol use, using illicit drugs, being bullied, suffering criminal victimization, having deviant/delinquent peers, and watching violent television.

Many correlates of youth violence in LMICs are similar to those that have been identified in HICs, but other biological, psychological, and cultural predictors remain to be tested in LMICs. Implications for research and policy are discussed.

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