Objectives: We sought to (1) compare estimates of the prevalence of fighting and weapon carrying among adolescent boys and girls in North American and European countries and (2) assess in adolescents from a subgroup of these countries comparative rates of weapon carrying and characteristics of fighting and injury outcomes, with a determination of the association between these indicators of violence and the occurrence of medically treated injury.
Design and setting: Cross-sectional self-report surveys using 120 questions were obtained from nationally representative samples of 161082 students in 35 countries. In addition, optional factors were assessed within individual countries: characteristics of fighting (9 countries); characteristics of weapon carrying (7 countries); and medically treated injury (8 countries).
Participants: Participants included all consenting students in sampled classrooms (average age: 11-15 years).
Measures: The primary measures assessed included involvement in physical fights and the types of people involved; frequency and types of weapon carrying; and frequency and types of medically treated injury.
Results: Involvement in fighting varied across countries, ranging from 37% to 69% of the boys and 13% to 32% of the girls. Adolescents most often reported fighting with friends or relatives. Among adolescents reporting fights, fighting with total strangers varied from 16% to 53% of the boys and 5% to 16% of the girls. Involvement in weapon carrying ranged from 10% to 21% of the boys and 2% to 5% of the girls. Among youth reporting weapon carrying, those carrying handguns or other firearms ranged from 7% to 22% of the boys and 3% to 11% of the girls. In nearly all reporting countries, both physical fighting and weapon carrying were significantly associated with elevated risks for medically treated, multiple, and hospitalized injury events.
Conclusions: Fighting and weapon carrying are 2 common indicators of physical violence that are experienced by young people. Associations of fighting and weapon carrying with injury-related health outcomes are remarkably similar across countries. Violence is an important issue affecting the health of adolescents internationally.