A study conducted on U.S. teenagers provides valuable insight into violent behavior that shows how violence spreads through some social networks much like a disease. According to the findings, a teenager is 183 percent more likely to exhibit violent behavior if one of his friends carried out acts of violence sometime in the past.
However, the researchers say that the spread of violent acts does not extend to just close friends. Instead, the findings suggest that violence extends by up to four degrees of separation. As a result, if one person committed a violent act, the friend will most likely pick up the practice, and then his friend, and two more friends beyond.
Robert Bond is an assistant professor of communication at The Ohio State University and the lead author of the study. When looking at the results, he compares violence with an extremely contagious disease. According to his statement, the means through which violence spreads with ease is via social networks.
In order to support his claim, professor Bond explained that the study’s subjects were 183 percent more likely to have inflicted serious damage on something or someone, 140 percent more likely to have threatened to use a gun, and roughly 48 percent more likely to have been involved in a serious altercation if they had friends that displayed the same violent behavior.
Much like smoking and obesity, professor Bond says that violence is equally contagious among certain social networks. Furthermore, he goes to add that the spread of violence through certain groups of teenagers may not be so unusual, after all. The lead author associates the rapid pace at which violence spreads among social groups with the clustering effect. This refers to people with similar interests coming together and forming a social network, or otherwise known as a cluster of friends. While interests may differ, if one individual displays violent behavior, it is more likely that the rest of the group is predisposed to such practice, which could have been the first common denominator that brought all of them together, in the first place.
Ultimately, the study also states that influence declines with each degree of separation. Hence, if a teenager is 48 percent more likely to carry out a violent act – because a friend also engaged in the same act – his friend will be only 18 percent more likely to exhibit violent behavior. However, even if reduced, the influence is still there.
Image Source: Pixabay
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