Why do young people commit violent acts?

Young people become violent when they do not know other ways to resolve conflict. They view it as a weakness not to stand up for themselves and believe other people will push them around if they don´t.

Reasons include:

  • Self defense.
  • Anger.
  • To gain respect.
  • Out of fear of rejection by their peers and losing other people's respect if they are “too scared” to fight.
  • To get revenge for something someone did to them or their friends.

Influencing factors:

  • Depression and impulsivity.
  • Anger control issues
  • Not knowing how to deal with stress and pressure.
  • Growing up with domestic violence.
  • No future vision – not seeing the point of anything.
  • Violence in the news, television, video games and music. Viewing content that glorifies violent behavior reduces children's and youth's resistance to violence.

Youth who are involved in fights and assaults are more likely to become violent adults.

Advice for parents

Intervene early

It is important to immediately intervene children who show behavioral problems and to guide and educate them about correct behavior. Education is more effective than punishment. Behavioral problems, depression and learning difficulties are examples of risk factors.

Changes that are important to be aware of:

  • New friends
  • Changed sleep patterns
  • More irritation
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

Take a clear stand against violence

It is necessary to talk to children and explain why violence is never a solution. Children need to be taught other ways to resolve conflicts and deal with difficult situations. Learn more about ways to resolve conflicts peacefully.

Teach children and teenagers to ignore provocation

It is better to ignore insults and gossip and walk away than to respond and escalate matters.

What others say to you does not matter, everyone will forget. What you do matters, it will follow you.

It takes self-control to walk away or resolve matters peacefully when someone provokes you. Self-control needs training, especially in children who do not have a fully developed prefrontal cortex which is responsible for self-control in difficult situations, allowing us to use reasoning and understand consequences.

Therefore, it is important not to resort to punishment if the children misbehave. Let's listen to their side, show them care and teach them ways to prevent this from happening again. Teaching emotional management and problem solving is important. Building confidence in the use of peaceful methods in such situations increases the likelihood of success. Children and young people are more likely to try peaceful solutions if they believe they will work.

Strengthen the relationship with the children

Let's strengthen the relationship with our children and try to be involved in their lives. Children and young people who have a good emotional bond with their parents and who experience discipline and encouragement are less likely to be involved in violence. An example of a family get-together is planning a cozy evening with a movie, a game night or a swimming trip. Going for ice cream and then a car ride with one child at a time is often a good way to have difficult conversations.

Talk positively about other people and the community

Explain why it is best to have good relations with other people. Parents with positive social attitudes increase the likelihood of positive social attitudes in children and young people. Talk about empathy and respect for other people.

Reduce exposure of violence

There is a strong correlation between watching violence in the media and resorting to violence. Children and young people who watch a lot of violence become desensitized to the violence. This increases the likelihood that they will:

  • not react when they witness violence
  • not call for help
  • resort to violence

According to the Children's Act, parents have a duty to protect their children from violence. It is important to be aware of what children and young people are watching in the news, on TV shows, on social media and in video games. Children need to hear from their parents and others they trust that the violence they see is not ok, that it is negative and bad for everyone involved.

It is good to discuss and explain the violence when possible. Explaining for example that

  • the injured people in the news are possibly damaged for life, they may never be able to run, work, drive a car or do other things in everyday life..
  • if the man in the movie was beaten up that badly in real life he wouldn't get up and walk away. He would probably be taken to the hospital in an ambulance and would need rehabilitation for weeks or months.

Learn more about how violence on social media finds an audience.

Encourage children to play sports

Research shows that children who play sports are more likely to stay away from violence. Having goals for the future, believing in one's own abilities, belonging to a group and having positive role models in the local environment reduce the likelihood that children will engage in violent behavior.

Strengthen ties with the school

Talk positively about the school and the teachers. Explain that everyone is doing their best, both the other kids and the teachers. If problems arise, they need to be solved in a positive way. Let's try to help the children form a strong relationship with the school.

Identify the risk factors and act on them

The more risk factors in the environment and behavior of children and young people, the more likely they are to resort to or be subjected to violence.

Risk factors include:

  • Negative attitude of parents and peers towards other people increases the likelihood of a negative attitude in young people.
  • Lack of supervision and parental indifference.
  • Lack of social relationships with peers.
  • Having friends who are aggressive, violent or delinquent.
  • History of behavioral problems and aggression in childhood.
  • Poor academic performance, low connection with schools, rapid transfer between schools and poor attendance.
  • Psychological factors associated with impulsivity include hyperactivity, inattention, restlessness, risk-taking behavior and low self-control.
  • Alcohol and drug use reduce self-control and the ability to assess situations and danger. Young people who start drinking alcohol at an early age are often more likely to commit violent acts or become victims of them.

Available support

See all support

Parents' house

The Parents’ House (Foreldrahús) provides children, teenagers and parents with counselling regarding teenage alcohol- and drug use, risk behaviour and behavioural problems, among other things. Their phone number 581 1799 is open 24 hours.


Vopnabúrið is a gym and a leisure center that provides counseling and support to children and teenagers in need.

Bergið headspace

Bergið is a support- and counselling centre for young people up to 25 years old.

Preventing violent behaviour

You can get help to change your behaviour.

Do you recognize abuse?

Here are stories about people in various hard situations. It can often be difficult to distinguish between bad communication and abuse. Read the stories and answer what you think is abuse.