Disrupting the cycle of youth violence: the role of social support for youth in a Northern Irish youth work programme

Colm Walsh*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Youth violence is a significant concern and previous research has found that violence is both trauma inducing and violence inducing. Meta-analyses have demonstrated that peri-trauma contextual factors such as the presence or absence of social supports following the onset of trauma may be predictive of the onset and duration of psychological stress. The aim of this study is to build upon the existing research evidence to clarify the links between social support, psychological stress and physical violence among a cross-section of youth living in high-violence areas of Northern Ireland. Participants were a sample of 10–25-year-olds (N = 635) who participated in a targeted youth work programme in Northern Ireland. This study conducted a mediation analysis, entering social support as the independent variable, psychological distress as the mediator and self-reported violence as the outcome variable. Violent victimisation was entered as a covariate in the analysis. After controlling for violent victimisation, social support operates through psychological stress to influence the risk of physical violence. Social support may contribute to reductions in psychological stress and thus buffer against the risks of living in areas of elevated community violence. Specialist youth work approaches may provide an opportunity to reduce psychological stress and thus help to mitigate the risk of further violence. Combined, these insights provide opportunities for harm reduction and prevention. At the same time, these findings advance our understanding of the distinct mechanisms of change involved in youth work-led violence prevention effort

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)671-679
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Child & Adolescent Trauma
Issue number3
Early online date28 Mar 2023
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2023


  • Youth
  • Trauma
  • PTSD
  • Violence
  • social support
  • prevention


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