The risk factor approach to violence prevention For over two decades, criminologists in the United States and beyond have applied the risk factor approach, widely used in the public health field, in a scientific effort to better understand a variety of youths’ misbehaviors (Farrington 2000, Howell 2009). Risk factors for general delinquency have been examined in numerous studies, but fewer studies have sought to identify factors specifically related to youth violence and an even smaller number of studies have focused upon youths’ gang involvement (Klein and Maxson 2006, Esbensen et al. 2010). Fortunately, the research in these areas has been increasing and reviews of these bodies of literature have begun to establish a knowledge base regarding which factors appear to be consistently related to youths’ involvement in violence and, to a lesser extent, gangs. Viewing youths’ violence and gang involvement from a public health

perspective, as behaviors that can be prevented and not simply reacted to (e.g., punished), and applying the risk factor approach expands opportunities for prevention across multiple domains and levels (Dahlberg 1998, Prothrow-Stith 2004).