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UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh has found that teens who had a positive outlook on their future were less likely to report threatening someone or injuring someone with a weapon in the past nine months. The findings were reported today in JAMA Pediatrics.
Prior research has shown that teens with such an outlook – also known as ‘positive future orientation’ – are more likely to be engaged in school and less likely to use drugs or to be involved in risky sexual behavior. However, there has been very little research to determine if future orientation also may protect teens from violence.
To answer this question, researchers at Children’s Hospital studied 866 male teens, ages 13 to 19, in under-resourced Pittsburgh neighborhoods for links between future orientation and violence perpetration.
The male teens were asked seven questions about future orientation to get a detailed perspective on their thoughts, plans and feelings about the future. The study team examined how teens’ future orientation related to violence perpetration, including fighting, threatening someone with a weapon, and injuring someone with a weapon.
“Designing youth violence prevention interventions to help teens develop a positive future orientation may be an important part of reducing violence perpetration,” said Alison Culyba, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., lead author of the study and a pediatrician in the Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine at Children’s Hospital. “Identifying factors that protect youth from violence is important because these factors can potentially be addressed through interventions. The findings suggest that promoting positive future orientation may be important in helping to protect teens in under-resourced urban neighborhoods.”
“I have seen countless instances when teens’ thoughts and beliefs about the future have inspired them to achieve incredible goals and these experiences motivated my desire to study whether future orientation also may protect youth from being involved in violence,” added Culyba, who also is an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. “By recognizing the strengths of young people and figuring out how to build upon those strengths, we can help teens move toward a more positive and peaceful future. It is essential that we combine interventions that strengthen future orientation with meaningful opportunities for youth to engage in their communities and achieve their identified goals.”
This work was funded in part by National Institutes of Health grant number KL2 TR001856 and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention grant number U01CE002528.
Additional authors on the study are Elizabeth Miller, M.D., Ph.D., Kelley Jones, Ph.D., and Taylor Paglisotti, B.A., all from Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC and Pitt School of Medicine; Kaleab Abebe, Ph.D., Pitt School of Medicine; Steven Albert, Ph.D., Pitt Graduate School of Public Health; and Marc Zimmerman Ph.D., University of Michigan.
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