Belongingness, youth violence and violence prevention interventions

Mrs Helena Erasmus1
1University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa

The occurrence of youth violence is an ongoing challenge and the inability to develop reliable predictive models underlines the complexities involved in the development of youth violence. One line of research focusses on the influence of genetics, shared environments and non-shared environments on the manifestation of youth violence. In the current PhD study, the non-shared environments of late adolescents who were referred to diversion programmes after committing interpersonal physical violence, were investigated to develop a theory on the occurrence of youth violence. For this purpose, Grounded Theory Methodology was used, and the researcher applied constant comparative analysis on semi-structured interviews conducted by the researcher, as well as on secondary data sourced from the internet. Through this process of analysis, a theory on dealing with a compromised sense of belonging emerged. The theory postulates that a range of adverse events could lead to a compromised sense of belonging which is negotiated through the use of various strategies. Failure to negotiate an adequate sense of belonging may lead to the use of alternative strategies. One of these strategies involves the experience of anger which could, under the right conditions, go over into violent acts. To do justice to youths at risk of becoming youth offenders, various approaches are considered for the development of violence prevention interventions, using the theory on dealing with a compromised sense of belonging as foundation.


Helena Erasmus is a Research Psychologist and lecturer at the University of South Africa (Unisa) where she coordinates the training of the Research Psychology students. She has contributed towards research in various fields of study. However, with a background in pre-hospital emergency care Helena is interested in the fields of injury and violence, and specifically in the various role-players within these environments. Helena’s presentation is based on her PhD which contributed towards her understanding of youth violence, as well as the use of grounded theory methodology.



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