Identifying Adolescents Who May Harm Others

There are several behavioral indicators described below, which are useful in identifying adolescents who may physically harm their fellow students or their teachers. Remember that you're looking for patterns of behavior or emotional responses, not isolated behaviors or single emotional outbursts.

  • Social isolation: few or no friends, hardly ever speaks to peers during breaks.
  • Despair: lack of enjoyment or fun in life and/or hopelessness about the possibility of life getting better.
  • Anger: nearly always seems angry and/or feels persecuted.
  • Threats: angrily threatens to harm others, particularly if specific plans to harm someone are articulated.
  • Poor impulse control: emotionally impatient and tends to respond aggressively before thinking or talking.
  • Defiance of authority: repeated pattern of not listening to authority figures; believes rules do not apply to him/her.
  • Extreme self-centeredness: repeatedly ignores the feelings or rights of others.
  • Obsession with weapons: fascinated with guns, knives, bombs, or other weapons, or brings a weapon to school or is known to carry a weapon.
  • Obsession with violence or death: regularly talks or writes about violence and death.
  • Exposure to violence: has witnessed serious interpersonal violence or has been physically victimized or has experienced the recent death of a family member, friend, or classmate.
  • Chronic truancy: repeated absences from school.
  • Extreme mood swings: feelings shift from very happy to very angry or very sad without obvious corresponding reasons.
  • Drug use: possession or use of drugs/alcohol or clear signs of drunkenness or drug-induced behavior.
  • Intolerance of differences and prejudicial attitudes.
  • Gang affiliation: especially those, which support antisocial values.