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Comprehensive Steps Urged To Stem Youth Violence

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WASHINGTON--Although violence is increasing among American youths, it is a behavior that can be "unlearned'' if schools, government agencies, and other community institutions develop more comprehensive violence-prevention programs, the American Psychological Association contends.

The United States now has the highest incidence of interpersonal violence among all industrialized nations, and violence among its young people has risen considerably over the past 10 to 15 years, according to a report released here last month by the A.P.A. Commission on Violence and Youth.

The 96-page publication, "Violence and Youth: Psychology's Response,'' is an overview of a two-year study by the commission. The full report will be published in 1994.

"In America we are killing each other at an unprecedented rate,'' observed Ronald G. Slaby, a senior scientist and lecturer at Harvard University, at a press conference held to release the report.

Mr. Slaby, one of the commission's 10 members, said when he visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial here this summer, he was struck by the realization that if violent deaths continue at their current rate, the nation could fill a similar wall with names every two and one-third years.

"Indeed,'' he continued, "we now have a war at home that is stealing the lives of more than 25,000 Americans each year, and many of them are our children and youth.''

The commissioners say in their report, however, that they also want to convey "a message of hope.''

"Violence involving youth is not random, uncontrollable, or inevitable,'' they write. "Every institution that touches children's family, schools, mass media, community, and religious organizations can contribute positively to children's sense of safety and to their preference for alternatives to violence.''

'Systemic' Programs

Among its 39 recommendations, the commission calls on schools to develop "coordinated, systematic, and developmentally and culturally appropriate programs for violence prevention beginning in the early years and continuing through adolescence.''

It also asks Congress and state and local governments to fund more after school programs and recreation activities at schools with high percentages of at-risk children, noting that involvement in gangs and juvenile delinquency is correlated with unsupervised time outside school.

The commission also recommends that violence-reduction strategies be taught in education schools and to teachers, administrators, school staff members, and health professionals who work with children.

The report also urges the Federal Communications Commission to prohibit television broadcasters from airing highly violent programs between 6 A.M. and 10 P.M.

Copies of the report are available free of charge from the American Psychological Association, 750 First Street, N.E., Washington, D.C. 20002-4242; telephone (202) 336-6055.

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