Youth Activism as Violence Prevention


Social Work

Date of this version


Document Type

Book Chapter




Interpersonal violence remains a serious social issue, particularly among street gangs and other groups of armed young people in marginalized urban communities. Much of this violence and gang membership can be understood functionally as responses of resistance—however self-destructive—to experiences of marginalization and oppression. Given this analysis, one potential approach to violence prevention that has received little attention from researchers and practitioners lies in engaging alienated youth involved in violence in progressive activism and organizing initiatives. Young people have historically played a central role in social movements, and the power of these movements has often drawn in gang members and other street youth and redirected their energies in prosocial directions. This chapter offers an overview of youth activism as a promising approach to violence prevention, drawing on behavioral science, historical examples, current research with gang members in Chicago, and an appraisal of the contemporary Black Lives Matter movement.

Published in

Wiley Handbook of Violence and Aggression

Citation/Other Information

Aspholm, R. R., & Mattaini, M. A. (2017). Youth activism as violence prevention. In The Wiley Handbook of Violence and Aggression (pp. 1389-1400).