Literature Review

Survey of Resources, Research and Literature on Youth Violence

In beginning this work, the research team identified multiple approaches to youth violence. We identified multiple theories in criminology, psychology, human development, and public health, and frameworks for how professionals and academics in those fields approach youth violence as a problem. These frameworks guide the goals and strategies in each field's programming and response to youth violence. For example, if the framework is based in a criminal agent model, then programs might focus on rehabilitation or punishment of youth. If the framework sees youth violence as a community health problem, such as in public health, then strategies might include education, treatment, and prevention. The Youth Violence Systems Project has chosen the social ecological theory as our foundational framework for this Youth Violence Systems Project Model.

Foundation of the Theory

The ecological systems theory is an approach to the study of human development that focuses on the interrelated structures and processes of four nested systems: micro, meso, exo, and macrosystems. Patricia Voydanoff, Ph.D. of University of Dayton, cites Urie Brofenbrenner in defining the Ecological Systems Theory as:

an approach to study of human development that consists of the 'scientific study of the progressive, mutual accommodation, throughout the life course, between an active, growing human being, and the changing properties of the immediate settings in which the developing person lives, as this process is affected by the relations between these settings, and by the larger contexts in which the settings are embedded.'1

This theory has been adapted in the public health field and evolved into the social ecological theory, which involves intervention at both the intrapersonal and interpersonal level. Intrapersonal factors are those things that occur within the individual self or mind, comprised of knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and experiences. Interpersonal factors exist between people. Because there is an interrelation between a person and his or her environment, we also look at relational, institutional, community, and societal factors.

We choose this theory as the framework for approaching youth violence systems because we believe that youth are autonomous as individuals while simultaneously subject to external factors. We present it in individual, relational, community, and societal levels as each adolescent is the sum total of his or her beliefs, experiences, family, neighborhood, peers, schools, church, and governmental institutions and their interactions. The goal of our project model is to identify which of the root factors has the most impact on youth violence and show how those systems relate. This research literature review organizes information in the following sections: general resources, the individual and violence, relational, community, and society.

For questions or comments, contact Rudy Mitchell, YVSP Researcher, at


1 References and Research, Sloan Work and Family Research Network Website, Boston College,%20Definition(s) (accessed August 31, 2008)



A. Guides to the Literature 

B. Other General Works 

C. Youth Surveys 




A. General 

B. Schools 

C. Gangs 

D. Criminal Justice System 

E. Youth Mentoring


A. General

B. Economics 

C. Culture—Access to Guns

                    D. Culture—Media and Violence 

Too much information?

For anyone who's not interested in sifting through the full literature review, some of the more interesting parts have been compiled into a handy and concise factsheet.

Neighborhood Briefing Documents

For each neighborhood in the Project, our research team compiled a 40 page briefing document of history, maps, demographics and institutional resources.  All six documents can be found here.


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