Young African American men who live in low-resource neighborhoods are less likely to engage in weapon-related violence if they have a positive outlook and plan for their future, according to a study published in JAMA Pediatrics.

A total of 866 boys and young men between the ages of 13 and 19 years were enrolled in the study. Participants resided in low-resource neighborhoods across Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and were engaged in an ongoing violence-prevention study. In-person electronic surveys were completed at baseline to collect data on demographic characteristics, violence perpetration, school enrollment, and future orientation. The 7 future orientation questions included measures for aspirations, goal setting, and contribution. Identification with a positive future orientation was defined as a score of either 4 (“a lot like me”) or 5 (“exactly like me”).

Approximately 77.5% of participants in the study were black or African American; the mean age of the entire cohort was 15.5 years (SD, 1.64 years). The majority of participants (66.4%) reported having been in a fight in the previous 9 months; 28.6% of participants reported threatening another individual with a weapon and 14.7% of participants reported injuring someone with a weapon.

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Participants who reported a positive future orientation were significantly less likely to report threatening someone with a weapon (adjusted odds ratio [aOR], 0.66; 95% CI, 0.48-0.92) and injuring another individual with a weapon (aOR, 0.60; 95% CI, 0.39- 0.91). Additionally, participants were significantly less likely to report threatening another individual with a weapon if they set personal goals and worked to achieve these goals (aOR, 0.56; 95% CI, 0.38-0.83) as well as if they believed they were able to make a positive impact on the world (aOR, 0.69; 95% CI, 0.50-0.96). The likelihood of injuring someone with a weapon was also lower when participants reported placing a high importance on personal goal setting (aOR, 0.45; 95% CI, 0.28-0.72) and belief in personal global impact (aOR 0.59; 95% CI, 0.39-0.90).

One limitation of the analysis is its cross-sectional design, which prevented the researchers from developing a causative hypothesis between positive future outlook and lower weapon-related violence.

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Based on the findings, the study investigators suggest that the identification of “promotive factors is essential for designing interventions that recognize the strengths of young people and marshal those strengths to protect youth.”


Culyba AJ, Abebe KZ, Albert SM, et al. Association of future orientation with violence perpetration among male youths in low-resource neighborhoods [published online July 2, 2018]. JAMA Pediatr. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2018.1158.