Running Commentary

Much of the violence throughout the world is committed by youths--primarily boys and young men. Sept. 11 heightened our awareness of mass violence by terrorists, but our nation's battle against violence has been waged for many years. While statistics tell us that arrest rates for violent crime have been declining, the proportion of youth reporting involvement in violent behavior has not decreased. Furthermore, despite the decline in crime statistics, nearly 100,000 minors were arrested in 2000 alone for serious violent crimes. While not the epidemic it was in the early 1990s, youth violence remains a serious, persistent problem in our country. As our nation seeks answers, psychology and APA have been uniquely positioned to respond.

As part of APA's ongoing involvement with federal juvenile justice and delinquency prevention legislation, APA members have been invited to testify before the Senate Commerce and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committees, the House Judiciary Committee, the Congressional Children's Caucus, and at a special closed briefing for members of Congress and their staff convened by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D- Mass.) and Rep. Bobby Scott (D- Va.) after the Columbine tragedy. During the same period, APA worked with the Federal Trade Commission to provide information about research on child development, marketing and violence. APA also provided testimony to Congress regarding research on the effects of repeated exposure of children to violence in the media and on concerns over existing ratings systems and industry practices, in accordance with our Council Resolution on "Violence in Mass Media." The association was also involved in the drafting of the federal project that became the Safe Schools/Healthy Students initiative, which to date has invested more than $500 million in nearly 100 communities and highlights the work of several psychologists in the list of model programs applicants should emulate.

ACT and MTV

ACT--Adults and Children Together--Against Violence (ACT), a project developed by APA in collaboration with the National Association for the Education of Young Children, is aimed at adults who raise, care for or teach children under 8. ACT, which integrates findings from numerous studies on aggression and child development, recognizes that violent behavior is largely learned, emphasizing the role of adults in creating safe and healthy environments for children. The project's community training component has been successfully implemented in Morris County, N.J., and three counties in California (Monterey, San Benito and Santa Cruz) and is currently being implemented in Kansas City, Kan. The next community training, which uses a train-the-trainer model, is scheduled for Frankfort, Ky. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is funding a cross-site analysis of the first three sites to examine the success of the program in those communities.

The other key component of ACT is a national multimedia campaign utilizing public service announcements. Many of you may have seen the television spots for this campaign, which have been shown about 30,000 times in media markets across the country in the past year. The campaign, developed in conjunction with the Advertising Council, shows how adults can inadvertently model aggressive behavior and refers viewers to Web- and phone-based resources. Visit www.actagainstviolence.org.

The Warning Signs project, the result of a partnership between APA and MTV, was launched on April 22, 1999 (just two days after the Columbine shooting) with a 30-minute MTV special, co-produced by APA and MTV, which has been seen by more than 4 million young people. Since then, 1.25 million copies of the Warning Signs brochure have been distributed, providing guidance to help young people recognize when a classmate or friend might be a potential danger to themselves or others. APA members have also facilitated more than 1,400 violence-prevention forums using the Warning Signs video, with a total attendance of nearly 175,000 youth and parents.

On other fronts, APA has produced a number of highly regarded pamphlets and informational materials, such as Raising Children to Resist Violence, produced jointly with the American Academy of Pediatrics, and Love Doesn't Have to Hurt Teens, a brochure and Web site aimed at preventing teen dating violence. Other violence-related efforts have addressed topics such as elder abuse, child maltreatment, violence against women and workplace violence.

To what end?

APA's investment of time and resources in violence prevention is only beginning, and it may be many years before we know the full impact of many of these initiatives. However, just as youth violence is clearly a serious problem in our nation, psychology clearly has become a significant resource in combating it. Even in the shadow of more sensational events, we can all take pride in the role our members and our association are playing in this critical battle.