Massachusetts Medical Society: Are Your Kids at Risk?

Are Your Kids at Risk?

Risk Factors

Risk factors that make kids more likely to be involved in violence include the following:

  • Previous aggressive or violent behavior
  • Being the victim of physical abuse and/or sexual abuse
  • Being exposed to violence in the home or community
  • Temperament
  • Anxiety and stress
  • Using drugs or alcohol
  • Having guns or firearms in the home
  • Loss of support from extended family
  • Social or academic difficulty in school
  • Trauma
  • A stressful family life, including:
    • Drug or alcohol abuse in the home
    • Being poor
    • Single parenting
    • Unemployment

Protective Factors

Protective qualities or "resiliency" factors allow children to recover from adverse or disabling events.


  • Social competence -- Communication skills, impulse control, empathy, humor and, most importantly, not planning revenge after experiencing violence
  • Problem solving skills -- The ability to avoid violence or calm a violent situation
  • Autonomy -- Self-control, taking responsibility for their actions.
  • Sense of purpose and future -- Kids who have goals, such as to go to college


  • Caring and supportive relationships among family members
  • Parents who have high expectations for positive social behavior
  • Parents who monitor their children and know what their children are doing
  • Structure and clear rules for the home
  • Children who actively participate in family activities


Being involved in positive activities in the community, such as:

  • with athletic teams
  • with adult mentors
  • with church or religious groups
  • with neighborhood organizations

These activities promote meaningful connections with adults and friendships with peers who have positive social values.

-- Adapted from the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control

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