Objectives: To describe the causes and circumstances of conflict leading to assault injury among urban youth seeking care in the emergency department.
Methods: The authors conducted in-person and telephone interviews with a convenience sample of 143 youth aged 12-19 years presenting to two urban emergency departments with an interpersonal assault injury. Patients were interviewed about the nature and circumstances of their injury. Descriptive analysis was performed, including stratified analysis by gender, age (12-15 vs. 16-19 years), and weapon use.
Results: Seventy percent of patients knew or knew of the person(s) who injured them; most were friends, classmates, or acquaintances. More than half of the injuries (56%) were related to a past disagreement. Among assaults related to a past disagreement, 33% of patients had previous arguments with their assailant, 16% had previous fights, and 14% had previous weapons threats. Twenty-nine percent had been previously threatened, and 11% had previously threatened their assailant. Twenty-eight percent of patients believed they helped to cause the injury by provoking a fight or letting down their guard. Nearly two thirds (64%) believed there were things they could change to prevent future injury, including staying away from dangerous situations and bad influences or controlling their tempers.
Conclusions: Most assault injuries among adolescents involved past disagreements with people they knew. Many injured youth were mutually involved in conflict before their injury. Over time, many victims and perpetrators may be interchangeable. These data may help inform emergency department-based interventions to prevent assault injury.