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Murder Is No Accident: Understanding and Preventing Youth Violence in America

ISBN: 978-0-7879-6980-6
288 pages
October 2003, Jossey-Bass
Murder Is No Accident: Understanding and Preventing Youth Violence in America (078796980X) cover image
Authors Deborah Prothrow-Stith and Howard R. Spivak— two prominent Boston-area public health officials who played leading roles in that city's turnaround— show that the key to Boston's success was creating an interdisciplinary citywide movement. The city's movement— made up of educators, community leaders, police officers, emergency room workers, activist teens, teen and family member survivors of violence, and many others— worked for more than ten years to implement multifaceted preventive programs that confronted each risk factor for youth violence, including
  • Positive Role Models: Peer mentoring and teacher-training programs
  • Healthy and Safe Communities: Youth centers, after-school programs, and other organized recreational activities
  • Poverty: Economic stimulus policies to help reduce poverty in inner-city and rural areas
  • Pro-Social Behaviors: Conflict resolution and violence prevention curricula in schools
  • Domestic Violence: Home visitation programs and screening to protect kids from domestic violence
  • Gun Buybacks: Reduction in the number of firearms on the streets

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Introduction.

Part One: The Problem.

1. A Shocked America: The Epidemic Spreads.

2. Who Are We?

Part Two: Issues and Solutions.

3. What Do We Know and How Do We Know It?

4. Understanding Risk and Resiliency.

5. Guns: Escalating the Consequences.

6. It’s the Television, Stupid.

7. The Demonization of Youth.

8. Girls and Violence: Rambettes.

9. Violence at Home.

Part Three: What Happened in Boston.

10. Violence Is Preventable.

11. The Movement Grows.

Part Four: Lessons Learned.

12. There Is No One Model.

13. The System Is Part of the Problem.

14. Going Into the Future.

Notes.

Further Reading.

About the Authors.

Index.

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Deborah Prothrow-Stith, M.D., is associate dean for faculty development and professor of public health practice at the Harvard School of Public Health. As a physician working in inner-city hospitals and neighborhood clinics, she recognized violence as a significant public health issue. In 1987 she established the first office of violence prevention in a state department of public health while serving as commissioner for the Department of Public Health for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Howard R. Spivak, M.D., is chief of the division of general pediatrics and adolescent medicine and vice president for community health programs at New England Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts. He is professor of pediatrics and community health at Tufts University School of Medicine and director of the Tufts University Center for Children. He cofounded the Boston Violence Prevention Program and is nationally recognized for his work in pediatrics and violence prevention.
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  • A model program for preventing youth homicide and violence -- one of the most acute and disturbing problems in the US today.
  • Two highly-placed authors with impeccable credentials and affiliations, who deserve substantial credit for reducing youth homicide and violence in Boston to its current level.
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"Written in a clear, personable style, the book is a thoughtful read for anyone working in youth violence prevention." (Youth Today, 12/03)

Prothrow-Stith, a Harvard School of Public Health associate dean and professor, and Spivak, New England Medical Center's chief of general pediatrics and adolescent medicine, bring impressive credentials and two decades each of experience in medicine, public health and violence prevention to this essential primer on adolescent violence. In impassioned, colloquial prose, the authors delineate the causes of teen violence (e.g., easy access to weapons; violent entertainment); elucidate past approaches, including police intervention for urban youth and mental health intervention for suburban youth; explain the impact of racism and classism on teen violence; offer first-person testimonies as exhortations; and detail ploys to combat the problem before it hits any more crisis points like the Columbine disaster or Los Angeles's street gang wars. The authors also reveal their backgrounds in order to break down stereotypes about violence: Prothrow-Stith's African-American family was close-knit and nurturing. Spivak's Bronx Jewish family excessively violent. But there's no discussion of the trend toward prosecuting teens as adults or of the fact that the U. S. remains one of only three nations worldwide to execute teens. The nexus of the authors' argument: violence is pr4ventable, but id does "take a village." Demonizing youth, treating teens of color differently from white teens and focusing on crisis intervention rather than preventives are mistakes that have intensified rather than precluded violence, they say, insisting on recognition of violence as a public health issue. This is a solid and heartfelt contribution to a major concern in our country. Agent, Kristen Wainwright. (Nov.)
Forecast: Blurbs from Sen. Ted Kennedy and Marian Wright Edelman bespeak support for Prothrow-Stith and Spivak's approach. Prothrow-Stith has discussed teen violence in many public forums, including Nightline and Oprah. (Publishers Weekly, September 8, 2003)

Prothrow-Stith (public health practice, Harvard Sch. of Public Health) and Spivak (pediatrics & community health, Tufts Univ. Sch. of Medicine) begin with the premise that violence is not inevitable. They describe "a world gone mad" where murder and violent death are common aspects of children's lives, citing a recent study of 26 industrialized nations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicating that about 73 percent of all child homicides occur in the United States. Why? Several risk factors are delineated: poverty, alcohol use, guns, media, and witnessing violence. The authors point to the great success of Boston officials in decreasing juvenile murder rates over the last 20 years; also offered are compelling arguments against zero-tolerance policies, TV violence as entertainment, and demonizing young black men. No single explanation as to why the "Boston Model" works as well as it does is given, implying that dealing with youth violence requires sensitivity of thought. A concluding chapter summarizes lessons learned, e.g., that forgiveness is a strategy. An excellent addition to public libraries, this work is far more comprehensive than Betsy McAlister Groves's Children Who See Too Much, which describes Boston's Child Witness to Violence Project. —Linda Beck, Indian Valley Pl., Telford, PA (Library Journal, November 15, 2003)

"A clear, compelling, and much-needed examination of what causes youth violence in small towns and big cities all over America, and how one community was able to bring many partners and pieces of a complex puzzle together to curb youth violence in its neighborhoods. This book is an important reminder that youth violence is preventable. It should be read by every elected official, public health professional, community leader, advocate, and parent ready to move beyond despair or fear and take action."
— Marian Wright Edelman, president, Children's Defense Fund

"Essential reading for public officials, concerned parents, and citizens."
— Senator Edward M. Kennedy

"An eye-opening and well-documented book by two of the foremost pioneers in violence prevention efforts in America. Through their own personal stories and an astute analysis of the complexities of violence prevention initiatives, the authors argue that violence is learned behavior that can be significantly reduced. This is an inspiring book; I highly recommend it."
— Alvin F. Poussaint, M.D., professor of psychiatry, Harvard Medical School and Judge Baker Children's Center, Boston, Massachusetts

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"Murder is No Accident: Understanding and Preventing Youth Violence in America is a clear, compelling, and much-needed examination of what causes youth violence in small towns and big cities all over America, and how one community was able to bring many partners and pieces of a complex puzzle together to curb youth violence in its neighborhoods. This book is an important reminder that youth violence is preventable. Dr. Deborah Prothrow-Stith and Dr. Howard Spivak have written a key guide that should be read by every elected official, public health professional, community leader, advocate, and parent ready to move beyond despair or fear and take action."
--Marian Wright Edelman, President, Children's Defense Fund

"This book is essential reading for public officials, concerned parents, and citizens. Deborah Prothrow-Stith and Howard Spivak lay out a powerful prescription for improving the ways we deal with the youth violence that is so devastating to the victims, the children who resort to violence, and the communities where they live."
--Senator Edward M. Kennedy

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Murder Is No Accident: Understanding and Preventing Youth Violence in America (US $36.95)

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