There are known risk factors that increase one’s probability of being a victim or perpetrator of violence. No single risk factor is sufficient for predicting one’s tendency to commit or be the victim of a violent act, but a person exhibiting multiple risk factors or a specific combination of risk factors might be at greater risk for violent injury than an individual with a single or different set of risk factors. This list should not be used to stereotype or stigmatize an individual with certain risk factors.

School Risk Factors

Previously brought a weapon to school
Aggressiveness in grades K-3, social isolation or hyperactivity
Truancy, getting into fights or misbehaving in class
Serious disciplinary problems
Past suspension or expulsion for aggressive behavior
Anger or frustration present in school essays or artwork
Academic failure beginning in grade school (experience of failure escalates risk rather than ability)

Family Risk Factors

  • History of family (domestic) violence
  • History of weapon possession or use by family
  • Abuse of alcohol or drugs by family members
  • Family conflict
  • Youth has history of being abused
  • Severe or inconsistent punishment
  • Absence of clear expectations or standards for behavior
  • Lack of supervision or support from parents or caring adults

Personal Risk Factors

  • History of tantrums or uncontrollable angry outbursts
  • Past violent behavior
  • Characteristically resorts to name calling or cursing
  • Bullying of peers or younger youths
  • History of being bullied
  • A pattern of violent threats when angry
  • Cruelty to animals
  • Fire-setting
  • Use and abuse of alcohol or drugs
  • Past suicide attempts
  • Often depressed or has significant mood swings
  • Tends to blame others for personal problems
  • Recent experience of humiliation, loss, or rejection
  • Preoccupation with weapons or explosives
  • Poor peer relations, is on the fringe of peer group with few or no close friends
  • Involvement with cults or gangs
  • Unstructured time

Community and Environmental Risk Factors

  • Extreme economic deprivation
  • Low neighborhood attachment and community disorganization
  • Access to guns or other weapons
  • Past destruction of property or vandalism
  • Few organized activities in community for youths