Predictors of Violent Behavior on School Property: Analysis of 2009 Youth Risk Behavior Survey Data

Thursday, 25 July 2013: 1:15 PM

Janet Thorlton, PhD, MS, RN
School of Nursing, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN

Learning Objective 1: List risk factors associated with occurrence of violent behaviors on school property.

Learning Objective 2: List examples of popular performance enhancing substances and reasons for adolescent use.


The purpose of this project was to better understand predictors of violent behavior on school property, using the Centers for Disease Control 2009 Youth Risk Behavior Survey data (n=16,410). It was hypothesized that use of performance enhancing substances (PES) would increase risk for violent behavior occurrence (i.e., carrying a weapon, fighting) on school property.


Social Cognitive Theory guided identification of factors contributing to violent behaviors at school. Relationships were examined, using descriptive statistics and bivariate analyses for each violent behavior.  Structural equation modeling (SEM) was performed to assess the model underlying the hypothesis and to investigate interrelationships among violent behaviors and other predictor variables. One latent response variable was represented by two dependent variables (i.e., carried weapon, and fighting on school property). The fit of the model was assessed according to model specification, testing fit, estimation, respecification. SAS 9.2 was used to account for the complex sample design; PRO CALIS was used to perform SEM.


Approximately 11% of adolescents reported being in a fight and 5 % carried a weapon on school property; highest rates occurring in males. The structural model provided acceptable levels of model fit: X2=1483.73, df=61, p<.001; GFI = 0.986; RMSEA = 0.040 (90% CI = 0.039-0.042); CFI= 0.957 and NNFI = 0.925.  All indicators loaded significantly on their respective factors (p<.001). 


This study considered PES use as a risk for violent behavior, using a large national sample of adolescents. Violent behaviors occurring on school property contribute to adolescent morbidity and mortality, and may be preventable. The use of existing nationally representative data allows findings to be translated into practice faster than could be achieved with primary data collection.  The findings from this study provide evidence of the need for additional studies involving adolescents who are at risk for participating in violent behaviors.