Understanding youth violence: the mediating effects of gender, poverty and vulnerability

Published: March 2016


This article aims to improve our understanding of youth violence in the early teenage years by exploring the mediating effects of gender and poverty in the presence of various risk and protective factors.


The article draws on data from the Edinburgh Study of Youth Transitions and Crime, a prospective longitudinal study of 4300 young people. We regress a binary measure of violence at age 13 (the peak age of violence) on a variety of risk and protection factors, while controlling for gender and two measures of poverty.


Our findings show that violence is strongly associated with gender and poverty at the household and neighborhood levels. These relationships remain even when controlling for indicators of risk and protection linked to victimization, and relationships between children, their care-givers, and school.


The findings support our theory of ‘negotiated order’, which posits that formal and informal regulatory orders play a key role in the development and sustaining of offender identities (McAra & McVie, 2012). We conclude that violence reduction is best effected by: support for victims, enhancing parenting skills, transforming school-curricula, and tackling poverty. Above all, young people involved in violence should be conceptualized as vulnerable children rather than offenders.

Authors / Editors

Prof Lesley McAra

University of Edinburgh

Prof Susan McVie OBE FRSE

Research Themes

Young People and Youth Justice