Violence in Schools: What is going on?

Within the past decade, there have been numerous horrific incidents in the one place where children should feel safest; their schools. School shootings are undoubtedly tragic, and it leaves many questioning where this brutal violence is coming from. Just since 2013, over 200 school shootings have occurred in the United States (Everytown Research, 2017). Some of these shootings are reported as being accidental, while many report the perpetrator was intentionally attempting to cause harm. The accessibility and availability to guns is a contributing factor as to why these tragedies occur, but the focus of this blog will mostly be shifted towards the psychological reasoning behind violent and aggressive behavior.

Aside from shooting-related incidents in schools, violence is also present in bullying and cyberbullying. In general, bullying involves the use of physical violence while cyberbullying typically relies on psychological harm. Bullying itself is a violent behavior that is frequently exhibited in aggressive students, but can also lead the victim of the bullying to engage in self-harm or in some cases commit suicide. Cyberbullying has already claimed the lives of many innocent children and adolescents. With stakes as high as the safety of children’s lives, it is critical that we figure out what is going on in order to reduce violence in schools, and ultimately protect the students in attendance.

Aggressive behavior in children and adolescents is an issue that has been comprehensively studied. There are many possible explanations as to why young people display aggression, but intrapersonal and interpersonal variables must both be considered (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012). An individual’s experiences within their home, school, family, community, and peer groups are all factors that contribute to how their behavior is formed. Biological influences, including temperament, are also important to consider when studying an issue such as aggression. The interactions between all of these factors provide the most thorough and accurate explanations for the causes of violent behavior. Researchers rely on this multilevel approach in order to understand the psychological development of aggression.

The environment that is created in a school setting is very significant in how the students attending that school behave. Moral climate is a term that explains how a student’s understanding of the appropriateness of aggression is formed by the beliefs of their classmates and teachers (Schneider et al., 2012). In other words, students learn what is considered appropriate regarding aggression by their pupils and teaching authorities. If a particular class has a very submissive teacher that allows for aggressive behavior with little punishment, as well as having aggressive students, remaining individuals will likely act more aggressive in that class. A study by Henry (2001) sought to understand how social processes in the classroom may be influential on aggressive behavior in children. He found that children do not perceive the level of aggression by the actual aggressive behavior, rather their expectations of how they should behave were associated with their own aggressive behavior (Schneider et al., 2012). Students were also motivated to sustain from aggressive behavior if aggressive students were punished or unpopular. When it comes to the school environment, an individual is likely to form ideas of what is appropriate versus inappropriate regarding aggression from their pupils and teachers. This information suggests that teachers must take this problem seriously, and be consistent when punishing aggressive behavior and rewarding good behavior.

Regarding life at home, a child that is exposed to family members with a history of substance abuse, domestic violence, and other types of family dysfunction have a greater risk of developing aggression (Schneider et al., 2012). When family members engage in this type of behavior, it becomes normalized for the child that is exposed to it. The child will begin to understand this problematic behavior as being normal, therefore increasing the chance they will behave similarly. It is common that students that hit, punch, and kick other students were either abused themselves, or witnessed abuse happen to another family member. This is no accident either. These two occurrences are highly correlated with one another, and is supported by social cognitive learning theory. This theory states that a child learns behaviors through the observation of others that aggressive behaviors can result in desirable or undesirable outcomes (Schneider et al., 2012). Not only does this observation allow the child to perceive aggression as normal, but it also allows them to see potential rewards for engaging in aggressive behavior. This suggests that home interventions may be necessary for certain students that exhibit violent behavior and aggression, largely in part of their familial experiences.

The community in which a child is brought up in can also be responsible for the formation of aggressive and violent ideals. Subculture theory suggests that a community with a history of violence and aggression will continue to contain individuals that behave similarly because the individuals of that community perceive the behavior as normal (Schneider et al., 2012). This theory is also similar to social cognition learning theory, which suggests children develop an understanding of what is normal through the observation of others. Community then becomes a significant aspect of understanding aggression and how it forms. Reformation within the community may lead to positive changes regarding aggression and violence.

Now that some of the important causes of youth aggression have been discussed, what can be done to decrease violence in schools? Some suggest prevention programs be implemented that address issues such as school environment and practices, academic performance, behavior management techniques, and academic climate and expectations (Schneider et al. 2012). A student’s school environment has been proven through various studies to have direct effects on what children understand as inappropriate aggression. Increased adult supervision as well as a no tolerance policy for inappropriate aggression are both useful measures to take in helping solve this problem. Students who do not perform well academically may become aggressive out of frustration. Teachers should work especially hard with these students to ensure that they are getting a proper education, and do not feel stressed about their schoolwork to the point of becoming violent. Behavior management techniques may be useful for obvious reasons. Meaningful assemblies about the harmful effects of violence, bullying, aggression, etc. should occur at least twice during the school year, and additional information about these problems provided in classes would be beneficial as well. Students who are prone to engaging in aggressive behavior should be required to see the school counselor to work out the problem with a trained professional. By understanding the causes of youth aggression we come one step closer in reducing violence in schools, and by taking these preventative measures we come closer in hopefully eliminating it.



Everytown Research (2017). The long, shameful list of school shootings in America. Retrieved from

Henry, D.B. (2001). Classroom context and the development of aggression: The role of normative processes. In F. Columbus (Ed.), Advances in psychology research. Huntington, NY: Nova Science.

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (2012). Applied social psychology: understanding and addressing social and practical problems. Los Angeles: Sage.


  1. Bullying and cyberbullying are not trivial matters to consider and many innocent children and adolescents are exposed to the danger of such acts. As you mentioned in your post, children manage to find what is considered a norm in their class or community and try fitting in it. If they are not being taught what is appropriate or inappropriate, they are likely to sustain the abnormal or aggressive behaviors. I do agree with you that family history/life is very important for children as they often model behaviors of their parents and siblings. From my personal experience, I strongly believe that parents can influence children’s belief system and behaviors. Teachers and administrators at school have important roles for our children to have positive experience at school; however, the fundamental values of morality should be taught at home by parents. However, the values are not being taught at home for many children and there is a significant difference in values by different families. Some families would value more on concepts that are based on individualistic culture and some would not. For example, some people believe that boys can have certain level of aggression because they are boys whereas some people believe that violence should not be tolerated regardless of gender or situations. As you mentioned, increased adult supervision and a rigid policy are important measures to help solve the issue. I would also like to add a universal intervention program that can be adapted by all schools and institutions nationwide to educate our children as a preventative measure. Even though there are many factors that shape and develop children’s thoughts and behaviors, a constant exposure to the awareness of the issue and intervention program may also influence their thoughts and behaviors despite of all the differences in values that they have been taught at home and community. Thank you for posting your story on this topic!

  2. I really enjoyed reading your post. Though the subject matter is heartbreaking, it is something that needs to be addressed. I like some of the ideas suggested about implementing practices that would address academic performance and behavior management techniques as well as expectations that are required of the students. I think that increased adult supervision would be helpful as well, in addition to a no tolerance policy for inappropriate aggression. Nevertheless, I think a lot of this would come down to funding for schools but I believe it to be a vital necessity that needs to be prioritized in our schools. Every day we hear of unbelievable acts of violence committed by adolescents that I believe could be lessened by interventions carried out by trained professionals.

    Per There’s a checklist you can utilize to help prevent violence in schools. The first few rules consist of prevention measures that can begin in the home. Talking to your children and setting rules and limitations are the first couple pointers and speak of getting to know your children and what is going on in their lives. They believe that starting these discussions with them leaves an open dialogue that could later prevent aggressive acts. Setting rules for children is number 3 and encourages letting your child know what’s expected of them and what the consequences are if they don’t follow the rules. Part of the rules are to have empathy towards others, be responsible, control your anger, as well as manage stress. Additionally, it speaks of knowing the warning signs and not being afraid to intervene when you think the something harmful is happening to, or by, your child. It also speaks of staying involved in your child’s schooling.

    With the suggestions in your post and by the, positive improvements could be made to tackle the violence in our schools.

    Thanks so much for posting!

    “Checklist to Help Prevent Violence in Schools.” Checklist to Help Prevent Violence in Schools – Programs – National PTA. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Mar. 2017.

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