Considering the Causes of Youth Aggression

This month, PEER Mentors attended Rutgers – Juvenile Justice and Youth Development, The Causes of Youth Aggression course. Presented by Randy Chadwick, MPH, this training emphasized the aspects of proactive and reactive aggression, purposes of aggression, risk factors for increasing the likelihood of violence, and developmental issues. Mr. Chadwick challenged the audience to consider negative reciprocity, dehumanization, the impact of class/status, and other upcoming research. Upon assessing another’s behavior we often forget to consider that perception is flawed – on both accords. Individuals react to perceived threats through fight, flight, freeze, or fawn reactions, instinctual reactions for the purpose of survival. As stated in the presentation “It’s not the case that people who make these decisions are fundamentally bad people, it’s that they were in a moment where they simply thought too fast, or acted automatically,” Randy Chadwick.

“What is madness? To have erroneous perceptions and to reason correctly from them” – Voltaire

Three focal (potential) contributing factors or phases to youth aggression are outrage based on anger, moral superiority based on contempt, and elimination based on disgust. Anger often stems from obstruction to goals, perceived injustices, or threats to well-being/physical safety, leading to feelings of anger directed at an “outgroup”. At times groups begin to reinterpret anger-eliciting situations, reappraising events from a position of moral superiority and links between, leading to feelings of contempt. Disgust is a basic, primary emotion elicited by the perception of contamination or disease agents – leading to the belief that distance is necessary between groups. These all compile to the dehumanization of others that occurs. Dehumanization is observed in adults across cultures and is thought to motivate human violence… dehumanization by children is associated with a willingness to punish outgroup transgressors. Dehumanization is the process where opponents view each other as less than human and thus not deserving of moral consideration. 

Dehumanization is one of the leading causes of aggression… youth or adults.