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Violence spreads like a contagious infection among friends

By Ronnie Cohen

(Reuters Health) – – Adolescents who engaged in violent actions have been extra more likely to have friends – and friends of friends – who had been violent, a new research exhibits.

“Violent acts tend to cluster through social networks, and they spread like a contagious disease spreads from one person to another,” the research’s senior writer Brad Bushman stated in a telephone interview.

A psychology and communications professor at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Bushman analyzed interviews from the 1990s with almost 6,000 American college students in grades seven via twelve.

Compared to college students whose friends had by no means harm anybody, youngsters with a pal who had badly harm somebody have been themselves 183 % extra more likely to report having badly harm somebody, too, the report within the American Journal of Public Health exhibits.

If a good friend had pulled a weapon on somebody, the youth have been 140 % extra more likely to have pulled a weapon, and if a pal had been concerned in a critical struggle, the youth have been 48 % extra more likely to have been in a critical struggle.

Interviewers requested the scholars to call as much as 5 boys and 5 women they thought-about friends at their faculties.

In male college students alone, the probability of critically hurting somebody rose 82 % for every further pal who had significantly harm somebody.

The affiliation prolonged past speedy friends and friends of friends with 4 levels of separation for critical fights and three levels of separation for threatening somebody with a weapon.

“It’s the first study we know of to see how far it spreads – up to four degrees, which is pretty amazing,” Bushman stated.

Dr. Gary Slutkin, an epidemiologist and infectious-disease management specialist, absolutely anticipated the outcomes.

“You’re doing what your friend is doing, who’s doing what his friend is doing, who’s doing what his friend is doing,” he advised Reuters Health. “You’re not thinking about consequences. You’re thinking about what your friends do.”

“This is one of now hundreds of studies that, if you add them all up, there’s no way of seeing it other than violence being a contagious epidemic health problem,” stated Slutkin, founding father of Cure Violence on the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health.

He has lengthy considered violence as a contagious illness and has labored to cease it in communities all through the world by figuring out the perpetrators and intervening in the identical approach he did with HIV carriers.

When it was his mission to determine the right way to cease the unfold of HIV in Africa, Slutkin realized that explaining the lethal nature of AIDS did not persuade younger males to put on condoms. But they might use condoms to guard themselves towards the illness in the event that they thought their friends wore them.

Slutkin has utilized his understanding of friends motivating friends for higher or for worse in his work preventing road violence all through the world.

By using former gang members to interrupt and stop violence, he has seen communities slash violent crimes by 40 to 100 %, he stated.

Punishment has not labored to regulate the unfold of violence, Slutkin stated.

“People are very comfortable with punishment, and it is not the way of out this problem,” he stated. “It’s like treating a patient over and over again with the wrong medicine.”

It’s attainable that the remedy for violence could possibly be unfold by means of the identical networks of friends because the violence itself, Bushman stated.

“Punishment is not a main driver of the changing of behavior,” Slutkin stated. “In order to get behaviors to change, you have to be interactive with people in your own peer group and see that you’re getting approval from your own peer group,” he stated.

SOURCE: American Journal of Public Health, on-line December 20, 2016.

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