Changing Your Teenager’s Mindset about Fighting

By Richard Asa @Rick Asa
April 12, 2016

Parental involvement and behavioral modeling is crucial to making a difference.

Nearly one-fourth of all teens reported being in a physical fight in the past year, a study says. The results suggest that parental attitudes about fighting could make a difference.

Specifically, researchers suggested that involving parents in violence prevention programs and tailoring programs to different ethnic or racial groups may improve their effectiveness.


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"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 lead researcher Rashmi Shetgiri, MD, a Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute (LA BioMed).

Most violence prevention programs are school programs that rarely involve a teen’s family, Shetgiri says. But this study suggests that you and the rest of your family are crucial to stopping the cycle of violence that often occurs among teens.

The first of its kind, the study focused on African American and Latino families.

Latino parents condoned fighting only as a last report while some African American parents said the fighting is sometimes necessary. Previous studies have suggested that seeing fighting as necessary is likely to lead to higher rates of fighting among teens.

Latino parents in the study said they were more involved, and taught their children the consequence of fighting, how to control their emotions, and nonviolent ways to solve disputes.

African American parents in the study believed in nonviolent methods, but said they had doubts that such approaches would work. African American parents also suggested corporal punishment as a method to prevent fighting, but only as a stopgap strategy.

“Parents should be concerned about teens repeatedly fighting for several reasons,” writes Angela Oswalt Morelli, MSW, in a newsletter for Gracepoint, a behavioral intervention program. “Teens that do not learn non-violent means of settling disputes may find it difficult to maintain a job or to maintain stable social relationships, even after they become adults.”


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Morelli agrees with the study results that found “it's most important” for parents to model positive conflict-resolution techniques. She says teens should actually see their parents and other role models handle conflicts in positive, non-violent ways.

Specifically, parents should teach their children to communicate problems with peers or trustworthy adults in a constructive manner, and to resolve conflicts in a non-violent manner while maintaining the respect of their peers, she writes. “Teens must learn that it is possible to have powerful emotions such as anger, without acting out those emotions,” she adds.

Morelli also suggests that you can help prevent violence and fighting by getting your children interested in healthy social and recreational activities while encouraging academic success, making it an important goal tied to success later in life.

The authors of the LA BioMed study acknowledged there is little known about parental views when it comes to fighting. They did determine that involving all the influential members of a teen’s community – from researchers to peers – would be beneficial.

“The fact of the matter is that there is no way to directly point to one cause in most cases of teen violence,” says Teen Help. “Because human beings are complex entities, and because there are usually many different factors that come into play, most experts prefer to refer to possible causes as risk factors, rather than actual causes. When most teens act out violence, it is usually due to a variety of reasons, rather than just one cause.”

Although relatively little is known about teen violence it is known that you can exert influence, especially when warning signs rear up.


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February 27, 2020

Reviewed By:  

Janet O’Dell, RN