Why adolescents fight: A qualitative study of youth perspectives on fighting and its prevention

Rashmi Shetgiri, Simon C. Lee, John Tillitski, Connie Wilson, Glenn Flores

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: To identify risk factors for fighting, factors that protect against fighting, and strategies to prevent fighting, among adolescents who fight and those uninvolved in fighting. METHODS: Focus groups were conducted with middle and high school students, stratified by fighting (fighter/nonfighter) status, race/ethnicity, and gender. Groups were audiotaped, transcribed, and analyzed using margin coding and thematic content analysis. Themes were independently identified by 3 coders; disagreements were resolved by consensus. RESULTS: The 65 participants in the 12 focus groups were 13 to 17 years old. Reasons for fighting include self-defense, to gain/maintain respect, or anger; having goals for the future is protective. Nonfighters state that their parents condone fighting only when physically attacked and that they teach adolescents strategies to avoid fighting. Fighters describe mixed messages from parents, and pro-fighting attitudes and modeling of aggressive behavior among some family members. Nonfighters avoid fighting by ignoring insults or walking away. Fighters feel unable to use nonviolent conflict-resolution methods effectively. Peers may instigate or encourage fights. Suggested prevention strategies include anger-management and conflict-resolution programs, relationships with caring adults, and physicians counseling youth about the consequences of fighting. CONCLUSIONS: Nonfighters use various strategies to avoid fighting, whereas fighters are aware of few alternatives to fighting. Conflicting parental messages about fighting may enhance the likelihood of fighting. Physicians can counsel youth about the negative consequences of fighting. Interventions that teach anger management and conflict resolution, promote adolescent self-efficacy for using nonviolent strategies, and address parental attitudes about fighting may be effective in preventing fighting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)103-110
Number of pages8
JournalAcademic Pediatrics
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2015


  • Adolescent
  • Aggression
  • Anger
  • Parents
  • Peer group

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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