HBSC home




Publications: Data Visualisations

Physical fights

Youth violence is a public health problem. It covers a variety of acts such as physical fighting and bullying, through to sexual assaults and homicide. Violent acts not only contribute to the global burden of premature death, injury and disability, but also have a serious and often lifelong impact upon a person’s psychological and social functioning.

Physical fighting is associated with injury, often requiring medical attention and hospitalization. It is associated with substance use, risky sexual behaviours and links have also been reported with weapon carrying. Young people involved in fights are more likely to report lower life satisfaction, poor family and peer relations, and low perceptions of school.

Policy reflections

Physical fighting is often more common in younger age groups. As children grow into adolescents and young adults, physical fights tend to be replaced by more socially acceptable ways to deal with conflict, such as ‘talking things out’. As such, policies which specifically promote verbal skills among early adolescents are promoted.

Effective prevention programmes include:

  • school-based anti-bullying programmes focussing on social skills and assertiveness

  • life skills and social development programmes designed to help young people manage anger, resolve conflict and develop the necessary social skills to solve problems

  • improved playground supervision

  • parenting skill and family relationship approaches which provide caregivers with support and teach communication, problem-solving, monitoring and behaviour management skills

Preventing youth violence requires a comprehensive approach that addresses the social determinants of violence, such as income inequality, rapid demographic and social change, and low levels of social protection.

Related publications

  • Trends and socioeconomic correlates of adolescent physical fighting in 30 countries (Pediatrics)

  • Cross-national study of fighting and weapon carrying as determinants of adolescent injury (Pediatrics)

  • World report on violence and health (WHO)

  • Physical and emotional health problems experienced by youth engaged in physical fighting and weapon carrying (PLOS One)

  • Global status report on violence prevention 2014 (WHO)

  • Negative school perceptions and involvement in school bullying: A universal relationship across 40 countries (Journal of Adolescence)

  • The role of family, peers and school perceptions in predicting involvement in youth violence (International Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health)

  • Bullying and symptoms among school-aged children: international comparative cross sectional study in 28 countries (European Journal of Public Health)