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All Violence Is Connected

Violence takes many forms, including intimate partner violence, sexual violence, child maltreatment, bullying, suicidal behavior, and elder abuse and neglect.  These forms of violence are interconnected and often share the same root causes.

They can also all take place under one roof, or in a given community or neighborhood and can happen at the same time or at different stages of life.

Understanding the overlapping causes of violence and the things that can protect people and communities is important, and can help us better address violence in all its forms.

“There are experiences, particularly early in childhood, that make it extremely predictable that individuals are at substantially higher risk for involvement with violence, be it interpersonal, youth violence, intimate partner violence, dating violence, or child abuse.”
Howard Spivak, MD
Director, Division of Violence Prevention
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Violence:  Risk Factors and Protective Factors

Violent behavior is complex.  Many things increase or decrease the likelihood of violence.  The communities people live in can protect them from violence or can increase their risk of violence.

Things that make it more likely that people will experience violence are called risk factors.

Examples of risk factors are:

  • Living in an unstable environment.
  • Family conflict.
  • Being victimized by Bullying at home, or at school.
  • Lack of job opportunities.

Things that make it less likely that people will experience violence or that increase their resilience when they are faced with risk factors are called protective factors.

Examples of protective factors are:

  • Growing up in a good, caring, stable, Family environment.
  • Feeling safe at all times.
  • Never being subjected to Family violence.
  • Connection to a caring adult.
  • Access to mental health services.

Risk and protective factors can affect an entire community, and can occur in interactions with family and friends and within organizations and systems like schools, faith institutions, and workplaces.

Individual experiences or traits can also be risk and protective factors, such as witnessing violence or having skills to solve problems non-violently.

The Impact of Violence on Development

People’s brains develop in response to their environments.

When children grow up in safe, stable, and nurturing relationships and environments, they learn empathy, impulse control, anger management and problem-solving – all skills that protect against violence.

When children grow up in environments where they don’t feel safe, their brain cells form different connections with each other to better recognize and respond to threats.

Children in these environments may misinterpret neutral facial expressions as anger, for example, and more situations may trigger a fight-or-flight response.

Children living in a persistently threatening environment are more likely to respond violently (fight) or run away (flight) than children who grow up in safe, stable, and nurturing environments.

Fight-or-flight responses are survival skills that people are born with and often override other skills that enable non-violent conflict resolution, such as impulse control, empathy, anger management, and problem-solving skills.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Connecting the Dots: An Overview of the Links Among Multiple Forms of Violence


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