Data indicate violent influence spreads like a disease

TDA affiliate Robert Bond, assistant professor of communication and sociology, is lead author of a new study that provides some of the best evidence to date that violence can spread through communities like a contagious disease.

Robert Bond

Robert Bond

Published online in the American Journal of Public Health, the study, co-authored by Ohio State communication and psychology professor Brad Bushman, found that adolescents were up to 183 percent more likely to carry out some acts of violence a friend had committed the same act—but also that the influence of one person’s violent act can spread up to two degrees of separation (friend of a friend) for hurting someone badly, three degrees (friend of a friend’s friend) for pulling a weapon on someone, and four degrees for serious fights. The influence declines with each degree of separation but is still noticeable.

Data from the study came from 5,913 young people (grades 7 to 12) who participated in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health and who were interviewed in-depth in 1994-95 and again in 1996.

The findings illustrate the value of anti-violence programs.

“If we can stop violence in one person, that spreads to their social network,” Bond says. “We’re actually preventing violence not only in that person, but potentially for all the people they come in contact with.”

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