Everyone gets angry; anger is a natural emotion. However, anger that is expressed frequently and intensely in response to minor irritants may signal potential violent behavior toward self or others (Rothbart, Posner, & Hershey, 1995
; Walker et al., 1995
Being a Victim of Violence
Children who are victims of violence, including physical or sexual abuse, in the community, at school, or at home are sometimes at risk themselves of becoming violent toward themselves or others (Browne & Finkelhor, 1986
Withdrawal from peers and familial supports can indicate the student is experiencing any of a number of concerns (e.g., depression, helplessness) which warrant assessment and intervention. When combined with other risk factors, social withdrawal may signal potential violence toward others.
Inappropriate Use or Access to Firearms
Students who inappropriately use firearms by shooting at people, homes, or vehicles, or have improper, unsupervised firearm access have a clear potential to harm others and act violently. No student should be allowed to posses a gun or weapon on school property or at school-related functions (e.g., dances, sporting events, etc.). Given the general impulsiveness of students and the dangers of immediate access to lethal weapons, this factor is one of the most important which should be assessed.
Although substance abuse does not cause students to be violent, students under the influence of psychoactive substances often fail to think logically and experience increased impulsivity. Thus, there exists a strong correlation between substance abuse and violent behaviors.
Familial Stressors: Familial stressors can engender feelings of frustration, anger, and hopelessness among students as well as adults.
Noted by Peers as Being "Different"
On many occasions after student violence, peers and others will note that the perpetrating student was labeled as being "different" from peers or being associated with some group. Hence, students frequently labeled by peers as being "weird", "strange", "geeky", etc. may be at increased risk for violent behaviors.
Excessive Feelings of Rejection
In the process of growing up, and in the course of adolescent development, many young people experience emotionally painful rejection. Children who are troubled often are isolated from their mentally healthy peers. Their responses to rejection will depend on many background factors. Without support, they may be at risk of expressing their emotional distress in negative ways, including violence (Coie, Dodge, & Kupersmidt, 1990
, Rubin, Hymel, Lemare, & Rowden, 1989
). Some aggressive children who are rejected by non-aggressive peers seek out aggressive friends who, in turn, reinforce their violent tendencies.
Feelings of Being Picked On and Persecuted
The youth who feels constantly picked on, teased, bullied, singled out for ridicule, and humiliated at home or at school may initially withdraw socially (Saarni, 1990
). If not given adequate support in addressing these feelings, some children may vent them in inappropriate ways, including possible aggression or violence (Floyd, 1985
; Greenbaum, 1988
Intolerance for Differences and Prejudicial Attitudes
Everyone has likes and dislikes. However, an intense prejudice toward others based on racial, ethnic, religious, language, gender, sexual orientation, ability, and physical appearance – when coupled with other factors – may lead to violent assaults against those who are perceived to be different (Prothrew-Stith, 1987
). Membership in hate groups or the willingness to victimize individuals with disabilities or health problems also should be treated as early warning signs.
Low School Interest
The genesis of this risk factor could come from any of a multitude of reasons which by themselves may not evoke violent behaviors. However, in combination with other possible violence related risk factors noted within this scale, students presenting with low school interest may have an inability to perform as well as they desire to and may feel frustrated by such inability. Additionally, these students may perceive themselves as belittled by those performing more favorably. Thus, when challenged to increase performance or when feeling harassed by those performing at higher levels, these students may become violent. For these reasons, this factor has been included.