April fears the dawning of her 11-year-old daughter's teen years more than most parents. The Colorado mom has worked to curb her child's violent temper since the girl was just 3 years old.

"She is better than she used to be," says April, who remembers when her daughter regularly threw plates of food, punched relatives' pets, and shouted curse words in violent temper tantrums. "But she still has outbreaks. It has been an active, ongoing process for her to master her anger." In the not-so-distant future, April worries that social and academic pressures will trigger more serious emotional outbursts.

The roots of violent and aggressive behavior can often be traced back many years. Many children with these kind of traits have a condition known as conduct disorder, which can begin in early childhood or during adolescence and is associated in some children with disorders, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression, oppositional defiant disorder, and bipolar disorder.

Factors that may put youth at risk for conduct disorder include:

  • Abuse of neglect (most influential risk factor)
  • Sexual abuse
  • Poor family functioning
  • Familial substance abuse
  • Family history of psychiatric illness

Certain factors increase a young person's risk of violent behavior, including:

  • History of violence
  • Substance abuse
  • Association with gang members or others with disciplinary problems
  • Disciplinary and/or attendance problems in school, low grades
  • Community poverty

This is not a complete list of risk factors. There are many other possible factors that contribute to youth violence. Also, having one of the above factors does not necessarily mean your child will engage in violent behavior.