Teen Girls Who Exercise Are Less Prone To Be Violent

Megan Charles - Author

Jan. 3 2018, Updated 2:18 p.m. ET

From 1991 to 2000, violence and criminal offenses perpetrated by teenage girls increased significantly. By 2004, girls account for 30 percent of all juvenile arrests, according to the US Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Several years later, a statistical survey – “National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH)” by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) – reviewed 33,000 girls between the ages of 12 and 17.

The results revealed one in four or 26.7 percent of them had been involved in serious, physical confrontations at school or work, and had attacked someone the prior year with the intent to harm.

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In the longitudinal study – performed between 2002 to 2004, again in 2006 to 2008, and published in 2010 – violent behavior was highest among those who engaged in binge drinking, used marijuana and other illicit drugs, were sexually promiscuous, and failed to attend school regularly.

Racially, the rate of violence was highest among black adolescents at 38 percent, followed by Hispanics at 29 percent; American Indians or Alaska natives, 26.8 percent; and Caucasians 23.7 percent.

Last September CBS News reported on an assault in Chester, Pennsylvania where a group of teen girls assailed upon a handicapped 48-year-old woman without provocation.

The girls recorded the attack and posted the video on Facebook. They laughed, cheered one another along, and unleashed a vulgar litany of obscenities as they mercilessly beat the woman from her stoop into the ground floor apartment.

A matter of group think incited others to join in on the vicious abuse, as they took turns beating the unnamed victim from the entrance and inside the residence. The mentally challenged victim was not seriously injured, bruised and shaken, but did not report the incident – it was assumed because of her diminished mental state. Authorities learned about it from Facebook.

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The six teenagers involved were arrested shortly following the crime, as they made no effort to hide their faces on the video. Anye Dennis, 16, Rahmiyah Henderson, 16, Jamia Davis, 15, Janeya Bell, 16, 19-year-old Takia Edwards-Couch, and 17-year-old Jasmir Womack were taken into custody.

The girls were charged as adults with felony first degree aggravated assault and burglary, and held on a $50,000 bond. The average sentence later imposed upon the girls was six to 23 months in prison for reckless endangerment.

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In addressing the growing concern over emerging violent behavior among teenage girls, Columbia University analysts presented their research at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Washington, D.C., during the Monday, May 6 session.

Researchers wanted to assess if regular exercise in inner-city adolescents would decrease violence. They touted regular physical exercise as a potential antidote as it was seen to lower the likelihood of violent behavior among adolescent girls.

Both male and female students at four inner-city high schools in New York were polled. Researchers analyzed results of the survey taken and completed by 90 percent of 1,312 of the original participants.

Questions covered how often students exercised – the number of sit-ups, their longest run in the past four weeks, as well as whether they played an organized sport. Students also were asked if they had carried a weapon in the past 30 days or if they had been in a physical fight or in a gang in the past year.

Lead author Dr. Noe D. Romo – a primary care research fellow in community health in the Department of Child and Adolescent Health at Columbia University, New York – stated, “There is a need for innovative methods to identify potential interventions to address this issue and lessen the burden it is having on our society.”

Results showed that females who reported exercising regularly had decreased odds of being involved in violent-related behaviors. Those who participated in team sports in had decreased odds of carrying a weapon, being in a fight, or being in a gang. Females who ran more than 20 minutes regularly also had diminished odds of carrying a weapon.

No measure of exercise was seen to curb the violent predilections among their male counterparts.

[Image via Shutterstock]


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