Framing public policy and prevention of chronic violence in American youths

Am Psychol. 2008 Oct;63(7):573-90. doi: 10.1037/0003-066X.63.7.573.


Metaphors can both inspire and mislead the public. Current metaphors for youth violence are inconsistent with scientific evidence about how chronic violence develops and evoke inaccurate or harmful reactions. Popular, problematic metaphors include superpredator, quarantining the contagious, corrective surgery, man as computer, vaccine, and chronic disease. Four new metaphors that more accurately reflect the science of child development are proposed to shape the field. Preventive dentistry offers a lifelong system of universal, selected, and indicated intervention policies. Cardiovascular disease offers concepts of distal risk factors, proximal processes, equifinality and multifinality, and long-term prevention. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's public health model focuses on injury and the victim to elicit popular support. Public education for illiteracy offers concepts of long-term universal education coupled with specialized help for high-risk youths and goes beyond metaphor to represent a truly applicable framework. Research is proposed to test the scientific merit for and public receptivity to these metaphors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Humans
  • Juvenile Delinquency / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Juvenile Delinquency / prevention & control*
  • Mass Media
  • Metaphor*
  • Public Opinion
  • Public Policy*
  • Terminology as Topic*
  • United States
  • Violence / prevention & control*