By Jordan Steffen
The first year of a multi-million dollar study found that living in chaotic families and early exposure to violence and substance abuse are the primary factors leading to violence among adolescents in Denver's Montbello neighborhood.
The five-year study, funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is part of a $6 million effort by the University of Colorado's Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence to identify the risk factors promoting adolescent violence in the neighborhood.
On Tuesday, the group revealed a number of risk factors affecting adolescents and next steps in bringing new youth programs to Montbello.
Community members used information collected from more than 800 door-to-door surveys, interviews of more than 2,000 students in grades 4-12 and their own experiences pinpoint risk factors, said CU center director Beverly Kingston. They found that persistent negative behaviors at an early age, poor family management, family conflict and peers engaging in negative behaviors were the factors that most often lead to youth violence.
According to the study, 23 percent of the youths said they had been involved in a violent act at age 10 or 11, and 6 percent said they had used drugs at the same age. About 28 percent of the high school students, and 17 percent of middle school students, said their peers were involved in a gang.
"So far as what's affecting people, you have a sense of that, but the clarity comes with the data," said True Light Baptist Church pastor Larron Jackson, who helped identify the risk factors. "The importance of information is what does the community do with it."
Using the information from the surveys, the community will work to create a community action plan, which will include programs that will target the risk factors. The group will meet on March 11 and 12.
The study also identified the neighborhood's greatest strength — and best buffer against adolescent violence — as religiosity. More than half of the adolescents surveyed in the community said they received recognition and reinforcement for their participation in religious activities.
Adolescents have struggled with gang violence and one-on-one fights for years in Montbello, located northeast of Interstate 70 and Peoria Street. The study aims to reduce adolescent violence and problematic behaviors by 10 percent among children ages 10 to 17 in the neighborhood by 2016.
Jordan Steffen: 303-954-1794, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/jsteffendp