MONDAY, July 12 (HealthDay News) -- A large study by U.S. and
Australian researchers suggests that puberty can be associated with
a substantial increase in violent and socially aggressive
Researchers from the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute at the
Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne, and the University of
Washington School of Social Work in Seattle, examined survey data
from almost 6,000 kids between the ages of 10 and 15 and reported
that the odds of a child acting out violently are roughly three
times higher when the child is in the middle and end of this
volatile life stage, compared with just entering it.
"Puberty is a time of transition for young people, both biologically and socially," said study lead author Sheryl Hemphill, a senior research fellow at the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute. "It's important that parents maintain open communication with their children and provide opportunities for them to engage in positive activities to prevent violence and aggression."
For the study, Hemphill and her colleagues examined
self-reported survey data from a randomly selected group of 5th,
7th and 9th grade students in Victoria, Australia and Washington
state. Roughly 1,000 students from each grade level in each
location were surveyed between 2002 and 2004. Violent behavior was
measured by looking at the students' answers to two questions: how
often during the past year had the student attacked someone with
the idea of seriously hurting the person, or beaten someone so
badly that medical treatment was required.
The survey also assessed so-called "social/relational
aggression" by asking students how often over the past year they
had gotten back at another student by not letting the person be in
their group of friends, or told lies or started rumors about
someone to make other friends not like them.
The researchers found that having antisocial friends and a
dysfunctional home life seemed to increase the chances of these
problems occurring, but that even after adjusting for these
factors, the association between puberty and behavioral problems
The findings were published online July 12 and in the August
print issue of
"The study certainly points out some important findings that should be further explored," said Mary Alvord, a clinical psychologist in private practice in Rockville and Silver Spring, Md. But she cautioned that a key limitation of the research was that it determined violent or socially aggressive behavior on the basis of just two items, "so it's important not to overgeneralize the results," she added.
"My observations over the years are that, although younger children fight and hit, the consequences are not as great as they are with older kids, because teens are under less supervision and monitoring by adults, and so they're more influenced by their peers and more apt to overreact," she noted.
Alvord agreed with Hemphill about the importance of parental
involvement at this stage of development. "Always talk with your
teens about how things are going, about their frustrations,
failures, successes, attempts and efforts. Often, driving them
somewhere results in the best conversations because they are
literally captive," she said.
She also recommended that parents pay closer attention to their
kids' friendships. "Research has indicated that teens are less
prone to violence when parents monitor their peer interactions and
activities. Often this means networking with other parents to find
out about what their [kids'] friends are involved in," she
To learn more about dealing with teen violence, visit
Mental Health America.