Press Releases

1998 Releases

Anger and Violence in U.S. Public Schools Documented in Harvard-MetLife Survey

For immediate release: October 14, 1998

Boston -- A general climate of anger and violence in and around the nation's junior and senior high schools is documented in new findings from the Harvard-MetLife Survey on Youth Violence, released in conjunction with an October 15 White House Conference on School Safety: Causes and Prevention of Youth Violence. The problem is similar and serious in all settings (urban, suburban, and rural), all regions of the country, and among all races and ages.

Harvard researchers, in collaboration with Louis Harris Associates, questioned 1,558 junior and senior high school students in the United States between April and June, 1997. A large minority of students characterized themselves as having predispositions towards violence such as the inability to control anger, or liking to fight. For example:

  • 33% agreed with the statement that "When I am really angry, there is no way I can control myself."
  • 41% agreed with the statement that "If I am challenged, I am going to fight."

In addition, the Harvard-MetLife Survey found that within the year prior to the survey, 66% of the students reported participating in or witnessing fights. Asked about the most recently occurring fight, these students repo rted important characteristics including:

  • 68% resulted in injury, including 12% in which the injury was serious, and 1% in which someone was killed.
  • 73% occurred on or around school property (including on a school bus).
  • 33% resulted in someone being suspended or expelled from school.

Based on this research, the study's authors suggest focusing increased attention on identifying and implementing effective anger management and conflict resolution programs for students; creating "safe passages" and "peaceable" environments in and around our nation's schools; and implementing effective policies and practices to curb teenagers' access to guns.

The study's authors, all based at the Harvard School of Public Health, are Penelope J. Greene, Ph.D.; Stephen L. Buka, Sc.D.; Steven L. Gortmaker, Ph.D.; William DeJong, Ph.D.; and Jay A. Winsten, Ph.D.

The Harvard-MetLife Survey was conducted by Harvard's "Squash It!" Campaign to Prevent Youth Violence. "Squash It!" is a youth violence prevention campaign conducted by the Center for Health Communication at the Harvard School of Public Health in collaboration with the entertainment industry. Its goals are to empower young people, promote positive alternatives to violence, and lend social legitimacy to teenagers' decisions to disengage from potentially violent confrontations.

The Harvard-MetLife Survey on Youth Violence is funded by a grant from the Metropolitan Life Foundation. "Squash It!" receives major funding from The Joyce Foundation and the Metropolitan Life Foundation.

For further information on this press release, please contact:

Center for Health Communication
Harvard School of Public Health
677 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02115
Phone: 617-432-1038
Fax: 617-731-8184
E-mail: chc@hsph.harvard.edu