A stray bullet from a teenager’s gun, which hit a 7-year-old Boston-area boy yesterday afternoon, is a painful reminder of the violence that has become a daily concern in communities around the country. The problem is particularly salient when it involves young people, which it often does: Homicide is the second-leading cause of death among young people in the U.S.
Why is violence so widespread? It may be related to whether we view it as a normal part of life. Research suggests that young people are likely to believe that violence is a normal way to resolve conflicts, achieve goals, and acquire status. They are especially likely to believe violence is normal if they are exposed to violent media, disciplined using corporal punishment, or able to access guns.
Based on this evidence, a group of researchers tested whether media use, corporal punishment, and gun access would decrease when families received violence-prevention counseling during well-child exams. This study by Barkin et al, published in today’s Pediatrics, found that families who received the counseling were more likely to reduce their children’s media use (and, thus, exposure to violent media) and to lock up their guns (if they had them) than were those who did not receive the counseling. They were not, however, more likely to use timeouts instead of spankings to discipline their children.