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Characteristics of violence by school teenagers


Christine Baccarat de GodoyI; Lidiane Cristina da Silva AlencastroII

I Nurse. Post-Doctor in Public Health. Professor, Federal University of Mato Grosso. Cuiabá, Mato Grosso, Brazil. E-mail:
II Nurse. Master in Nursing. PhD student in Public Health in Nursing, University of São Paulo. Ribeirão Preto, São Paulo, Brazil. E-mail:





Objective: to describe the characteristics of violence by school teenagers of the state capital of Mato Grosso, Brazil. Methods: this cross-sectional study was conducted in 2012 with a sample of 2,786 adolescent students. Data were collected through self-administered, closed questionnaire and processed using Epi-Info; bivariate analysis considered the value p<0.05. The project was approved by the research ethics committee (CAAE 01986012.9.0000.5541). Results: of the 334 adolescents who used violence, most (59.6%) were male and 16 to 17 years old (57.5%), and 99.7% did not answer what type of violence they used. Both sexes used violence more against colleagues, for more than 2 years, used violence at school and, for 49.5% of the adolescents, the violence had now ceased. Conclusion: the characteristics of adolescent aggressors point to violence among peers, especially at school, which requires care and attention in order to combat the cycle of situations of violence.

Keywords: Violence; adolescent; adolescente behavior; public health nursing.




In a broader sense, violence can be distinguished in lato sensu violence, which refers to a broader terminology, which concerns external causes (accidents and violence), that is, unintentional and intentional causes, respectively. In the stricto sense, it refers specifically to intentional violence, often described by the synonyms of aggression, mistreatment and abuse1.

Intentional violence has become increasing in societies and has become a problem of public and social health, considering the high number of deaths and the repercussions that this can cause in the lives of people with damages and losses in the physical, social, economic and emotional aspects2-4.

Studies have highlighted intentional violence as an important condition of vulnerability in adolescence5,6, in which adolescents, besides being involved as victims, are also identified as the main aggressors7.

The literature indicates that the involvement of adolescents in situations of violence as aggressors is related to factors that are capable of interfering in their social and moral formation, such as: exploitation of minors, violence at home, living in environments with drug exposure, use of alcohol, trafficking, robberies, and other negative events5,8,9.

In this scenario, knowing the characteristics of violence practiced by this group, as reported by the adolescents themselves, can contribute to increase the knowledge of a reality not always captured by the official bodies.

Thus, the present study aims to describe the characteristics of violence perpetrated by school adolescents from the capital of Mato Grosso, Brazil.



In recent years, violence has become a major public health problem, not only because of the high mortality rates, but also because of the consequences that it can bring in the lives of the people involved, in health and public safety expenses, and in its capacity to reflect on the way of living of a society and/or community2-4.

A study conducted by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health with 65,393 Norwegian mothers from 1999 to 2008 found that 19% of women had been abused before reaching 18 years old10.

In Jordan, a survey conducted in 2015 with 4,355 adolescent students identified that 33.9% were non-fatal injury victims3.

In the Brazilian scenario, a study that used data from the National School Health Survey (PENSE) conducted in 2012 with 109,104 students from all Brazilian capitals and the Federal District found that 10.4% of the study population had engaged in fights with guns, with a higher prevalence among males (13.8%) than among females (7.2%). In addition, according to the same study, there was prevalence of cold weapons (10.6%) in relation to firearms (8.8%), with no significant difference among women, and the highest prevalence of involvement in fights with guns was also associated with older age (15 years or more), with being a public school student, being working, using tobacco, consuming alcohol and illicit drugs, as well as with having suffered violence at home, bullying and feeling insecure at school and on the way to school11.

Another study conducted in Brazil, in Salvador, Bahia, analyzed mortality from external causes in the period of 2000 and 2006 and the results pointed to an increase in homicides in which the strata with the highest concentration of poverty presented the highest rates12. Another study carried out in Feira de Santana, also in Bahia, identified that among the notifications of the attendances performed in SUS due to violence, 51.6% of the victims were adolescents and 33% of the perpetrators were known by the victim13.

A study carried out with data from 3,205 adolescents aged 15 to 19 years from 10 Brazilian states from 2007 to 2009 revealed that sibling violence was common among 75.6% of adolescents surveyed, 46.3% were involved in violent situations with friends and 29.8% with partners of previous affective-sexual relationships14.

In this sense, as in the world situation, in Brazil, mortality data do not represent the totality of the problem. Non-fatal injuries are responsible for high rates of morbidity and calls in the health services, besides the damages that have affected different vulnerable groups, and have a direct impact on the adolescents' way of life.15, 16.

The experience of a situation of violence can affect the emotions, the behavior and the perception of the world in which a person lives and for the adolescents, in particular, they generate impacts that can last until the adult life17. In this context, it is essential that health professionals, as well as nursing professionals, play their role in minimizing and preventing various forms of violence through identification, notification and other interdisciplinary and intersectoral actions in order to promote the individual and collective health of teenagers18.



This is a descriptive cross-sectional study carried out with 2,786 high school students from 17 state schools in Cuiabá-MT, which were drawn considering the administrative regions of the capital. Three schools from the North region, four from the South region, six from the Eastern region and four from the West region of the municipality were included in the study, until the required sample was completed, considering the level of significance of two standard deviations, maximum error of 2% and frequency of the event of 50%.

To correct possible failures and to adapt the collection instrument, this was previously tested by means of a pilot test in classes that were not part of the study.

Data collection was performed in the second half of 2012 by the researchers of the matrix project, through a closed and self-administered questionnaire. In order to guarantee anonymity and safety to the subjects of the research, boxes were distributed in the classrooms so that the adolescents directly deposited the questionnaires answered, without the possibility of identification.

In relation to the studied phenomenon, the gender and the age of the aggressors were considered as independent variables, and the type of violence perpetrated, relationship with the victim, frequency (how many times), time of abuse (duration), place of occurrence of the violent act and the persistence or non- persistence of violence.

The data were processed electronically through the Epi-Info program version 3.5.2. and for the bivariate analyzes the Chi-square test was applied, considering the value of p <0.05 as a measure of statistical significance.

Regarding the ethical aspects, the study was authorized by the Department of Education of Mato Grosso State (SEDUC), approved by the Research Ethics Committee of the Júlio Müller University Hospital of the Federal University of Mato Grosso (UFMT), number CAAE 01986012.9. 0000.5541, and parental authorization was provided in advance by the schools.



In total, 2,786 adolescents were surveyed, of whom 1,236 has been involved in a situation of violence, among which 334 (27%) reported being aggressors (perpetrated some kind of violence). Thus, the present study presents the characteristics of violence perpetrated by 334 school adolescents from Cuiabá-MT.

Among the adolescent aggressors, 199 (59.6%) were males and 135 (40.4%) were females. Regarding the age group, 99 (29.6%) declared themselves between the ages of 14 and 15 years, 192 (57.5%) were 16 to 17 years and 43 (12.9%) were 18 to 19 years.

Other studies have also identified that males have perpetrated more violence than females,19,20 which may be a consequence of gender issues that have influenced the way in which parents and/or guardians educate their male children, with a creation focused on masculinity and virility21, often expressed through violent attitudes.

In view of this, discussions on gender issues should be carried out, which may avoid that attitudes and thoughts based on violence, inherited from the historical and social context of society, be transferred from parents to children.

Coinciding with the present research, a study carried out in Barcelona with 3,089 school adolescents analyzed the involvement of adolescents with bullying and identified that the percentage of aggressive adolescents was higher in the age group of 15 to 16 years when compared to older adolescent aggressors (17-18 years)22. Other national studies have identified that the average age of adolescents that commit infractions was approximately 16 years23,24.

This factor can be explained because the period of middle adolescence represents a phase of competitiveness, self-confidence and conquest of space, in which many times these issues are solved through violent acts. Early adolescence, on the other hand, represents a period of greater insecurity in which adolescents are more afraid of being involved in situations of violence, while older adolescents are beginning to develop maturity in interpersonal relationships, ensuring a greater reflection on conflict resolution.

Thus, it is essential to address, together with adolescents, interpersonal relationships, individual conflicts inherent to each stage of development, and especially guide them on the consequences of attitudes taken instinctively and impulsively.

Regarding the type of violence perpetrated by the surveyed adolescents, 333 (99.7%) did not respond to this question and one (0.3%) had done bullying. Therefore, the present study reveals that even with guaranteed anonymity of the subjects, adolescents who had carried out violent acts were resistant to assuming what type of violence they had perpetrated.

Studies show that the main types of violence carried out by adolescents are psychological, physical and bullying, which can be manifested through psychological attacks (represented by nicknames, insults and mockery), physical attacks (expressed by pushes, kicks, punches, among others) and through threats20,25.

Data on the gender of the adolescents who perpetrated violence according to the relationship with the victims are presented in Table 1. It was observed that both genders had assaulted mostly their classmates, and secondly, the boys had attacked unknown people and/or others, and the girls had assaulted their siblings.

TABLE 1: Distribution of adolescents who had perpetrated violence according to gender (p = 0.0000) and relationship with the victim. Cuiabá, 2012.

As for the age of the aggressors, according to the relationship with the victim, it was verified that adolescents in the age group of 14 to 17 years reported that their classmates and siblings were the most assaulted, while among those aged between 18 and 19, classmates and unknown person/other has suffered more act of violence.

With regard to the relationship between the aggressor and the victim, a study carried out in Porto Alegre-RS also identified that classmates are the main victims of violence among adolescents20. This fact shows that adolescents, in most cases, are involved in situations of violence between peers, presenting themselves as aggressors and victims. Another study carried out in the municipality of São Gonçalo-RJ also pointed out that the female gender was more involved in situations of violence with siblings26.

In this context, it can be inferred that girls perpetrate more violence against close and vulnerable people, such as siblings, often even younger, and that boys use violence often for the resolution of conflicts with people who are not part of their conviviality, which characterizes masculinity and gender issues, already mentioned previously. In this sense, there is need of actions to prevent violence among adolescents, by raising their awareness to solve conflicts based on tolerance and dialogue to the detriment of the use of violence.

With regard to the gender of the adolescents according to the frequency of the violent act (p = 0.0618), it was observed that 71 (35.7%) male adolescents had perpetrated violence once; 43 (21.6%) had perpetrated violent acts from two to four times; 17 (8.5%), from five to ten times; 50 (25.2%) had perpetrated violence more than 10 times and/or continuously, while 18 (9.0%) did not answer to this question. Among females, 42 (31.1%) girls had perpetrated violence once and 42 (31.1%) had perpetrated violence between 2 and 4 times; whereas five (3.7%) had committed violent acts from 5 to 10 times; 40 (29.7%), for more than 10 times and/or continuously and 6 (4.4%) did not answer to this question.

The frequency of violence observed in the present investigation was also verified in other studies 23,25 and characterizes the recurrence of violence perpetrated by adolescents who may be attacking the same victim or different victims. Therefore, it is important for the public security sector to establish mechanisms to identify violence perpetrated by adolescents and to implement resolute initiatives to reduce violent acts, based on the re-socialization of aggressors, with activities to raise awareness and reduce possible risk factors. In addition, it is necessary to emphasize that such actions must consider the vulnerability and specificity that this age group has because they are in a phase of social, personal and moral development and formation5,6.

With regard to the time of abuse of violent acts according to the age of adolescents, it was found that in all ages, in most situations, violence had been perpetrated for more than two years. See Table 2. In both genders, violence predominated for more than two years.

TABLE 2: Distribution of adolescents who had perpetrated violence according to age (p = 0.0082) and time of abuse. Cuiabá, 2012.

A study carried out with high school adolescents of a Recife-PE school verified that situations of violence among adolescents, such as insults, intimidations and bullying, were pointed out by teachers and students as something natural and characteristic of that age group27. In this sense, in order to reduce situations of violence perpetrated by adolescents, authors suggest addressing with them and with professionals dealing with this age group the various manifestations of violent acts and their consequences, mainly deriving from situations of exposure for long periods.

In the distribution of adolescents according to gender and age and the place where violence occurred, there was statistical significance, in which boys had exercised more violence in school and in streets, and girls, in school and in their own residence. In relation to age, adolescents between the ages of 14 and 15 and between 18 and 19 years of age were more violent at school and in streets, whereas those between 16 and 17 years old had carried out violent acts, mostly, at school and in their own residence (Table 3).

TABLE 3: Distribution of adolescents who had perpetrated violence according to gender (p=0.0000) and age (p=0.0000), according to the place of occurrence of the violent act. Cuiabá, 2012.

In other studies, the school was also referred to as the place with the highest frequency of violence, and was considered by the adolescents as an unsafe and unprotected place 28-30. However, the present investigation also indicated that the street was the second place with the highest occurrence of violence for males and the aggressor's residence for the female gender. This result confirms that boys attack more people outside of their family life, while girls attack, in most cases, family members. Such a factor can be justified because the male gender is more exposed to the streets, if compared with the girls, on whom there is greater vigilance and control by the family31.

In this context, it is necessary to carry out activities to prevent violent acts at school, with the direct participation of adolescents and the use of innovative methodological strategies based on the creation of small groups and on the empowerment of adolescents as a responsible being for their attitudes. In addition, it is highlighted the importance of linking education and public safety with the family, in order to discuss new ways that help reducing violence perpetrated by this age group in schools, in the streets and in their own homes.

Regarding the interruption of violence, 165 (49.4%) reported that the violent situations had ceased, 49 (14.7%) still persist and 120 (35.9%) adolescents did not respond to this question. It should be noted that the blank questionnaires represent the adolescents who did not declare whether the situation of violence had ceased or not. In this case, the results raise the need to address with adolescents the consequences of violent acts, their repercussions on personal relationships, moral and even professional formation, highlighting the importance of interrupting this cycle, which is the most effective way for reducing the occurrences of this event that is capable of generating short and long-term sequelae 3,17.



The adolescent aggressors were mostly males, aged between 16 and 17 years and almost all did not specify what type of violence was carried out. The most violent act was against classmates, lasted for more than 2 years, occurred at school and ceased, in most situations.

The fact that most of the adolescent aggressors did not indicate the type of violence perpetrated represents a limitation of the study and prevented the analysis of this variable. However, the present study reveals characteristics of violence carried out by school adolescents that can help health professionals, especially nursing professionals, in the implementation of measures and/or strategies with the purpose of reducing this type of event.

The results of the present investigation point to the urgency of actions to prevent violence among adolescents. In addition, it is essential to know and act on the risk factors that are related to the violence exerted by this age group, as well as to invest in socio-educational measures that help in the reinsertion of the aggressive adolescent in society, by stimulating learning, professional qualification, among other actions according to individual needs. It is worth emphasizing that aggressive adolescents, as well as victims, also require care and attention, so that the cycle of violence is interrupted and, thus, to minimize and combat situations of violence.



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