Study pinpoints reasons for youth violence

Six central forms of perceived injuries cause outburst of conflicts.

violence school 88 (photo credit: )
violence school 88
(photo credit: )
A behavioral science study released Sunday by the Henrietta Szold Institute in Jerusalem exposes new data concerning the content, frequency, and intensity of social conflicts among Israeli adolescents. Orit Bendas Jacob, who conducted the study together with Professor Yitzhak Friedman, told The Jerusalem Post that their research revealed six central forms of perceived injuries that cause an outburst of conflicts among adolescents: injury to a member of one’s close social circle; injury to a close friendship; personal injustice; injury to one’s pride; injury to one’s social status; and injury concerning one’s ethnic or behavioral background. “What is unique to this study,” Bendas Jacob said, “is the attempt to understand the reasons for conflicts among adolescents, rather than to map violence among Israeli adolescents or view it in a comparative perspective.” According to Bendas Jacob, the categories of conflict outlined in the study offer a typology of reasons for which youth enters into confrontations. The two most prominent categories, she said, were an injury to friendship, which may take the form of gossip, telling a lie, or revealing a secret, and a sense of injustice, which may involve an injury to one’s privacy or mistrusting a friend. By contrast, reasons that have been traditionally considered as high on the list of reasons for conflict such as disrespect or an injury to social status proved to be low on the list compiled by the researchers. Bendas Jacob also said that the study revealed the socially specific nature of affronts in the world of adolescents. Participants in the study, she said, defined conflict on a spectrum ranging from mere arguments to extremely violent behavior. When students were asked to narrate their responses to various affronts, Bendas Jacob said, their responses included expressions such as “I tore him apart,” “I broke his nose,” “I broke his teeth but he deserved it,” and “I kicked him in the back so that he almost became paralyzed.” Nevertheless, Bendas Jacob said, she was encouraged by the desire that adolescents expressed to learn how to cope with such phenomena. The model for coping with violence which she and her colleagues had developed before the publication of the study, she said, is reinforced by the results of their research. “Our assumption was that you could distinguish between a violent group, the group that suffered from them, and a group that could facilitate the reduction of conflict,” she said. Discovering what kinds of situations led adolescents to enter into conflict, according to Bendas Jacob, could help teach them life skills and social skills that would decrease the impact of perceived affronts on their behavior. The study also pointed to the gendered nature of adolescent conflicts. Conflicts between girls lasted longer, while conflicts among boys tended to end following the intervention of a third party. In addition, students in secular schools tended to break off relationships more frequently than those in religious schools.