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Gac Sanit. 2010 Jan-Feb;24(1):47-52. doi: 10.1016/j.gaceta.2009.08.002. Epub 2009 Nov 4.

Violence in adolescents: social and behavioural factors.

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Department of Hygiene and Epidemiology, University of Porto Medical School, Porto, Portugal.



To estimate the prevalence of young people's involvement in violence measured as participation in physical fights or being physically, sexually or emotionally abused. We also aimed to understand the role of social, demographic and other behavioural characteristics in violence.


We evaluated 7511 adolescents (4243 girls and 3268 boys) aged 15 to 19 years old, enrolled in public schools. Information was obtained using an anonymous, self-administrated questionnaire.


The most frequently reported type of violence was emotional abuse (15.6%). Boys reported greater involvement in fights (3.6 vs. 13.6%, p<0.001) and physical abuse (7.5 vs. 19.5%, p<0.001). The prevalence of emotional abuse (16.2 vs. 14.8%, p=0.082) and sexual abuse (2.0 vs. 1.8%, p=0.435) was similar in girls and boys. After adjustment, increasing age decreased the odds of being involved in fights in both genders but increased the odds of emotional abuse. Living in a rented home was associated with physical abuse in girls (odds ratio [OR]: 1.4; 95% confidence interval [95%CI]: 1.0-1.9) and boys (OR: 1.6; 95%CI: 1.2-2.0). In girls the odds of being emotionally abused increased with greater parental education. Smoking and cannabis use were associated with all types of violence in both genders.


The most frequently reported form of violence was emotional abuse. We found differences by gender, with boys reporting more physical abuse and involvement in fights. Adolescents whose parents had a higher educational level reported more physical and emotional abuse, which may be related to differences in the perception of abuse.

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