Warning Signs of Violent & Homicidal Behavior in Teens

There is a great concern about the incidence of violent behavior among teens. Violent behavior needs to be taken seriously and should not be quickly dismissed as “just a phase.”

Violent behavior in the home as well as tolerance of violence on television, video games, youtube and social media can help validate a teen’s belief that violence is a way to solve problems.

Mental illness is often a common variable, however, only a small percentage of mentally ill people are violent. Physical, emotional and mental abuse damages a teen’s basic sense of safety. Many times, teens who are physically abused often become violent and teens who are neglected often have difficulty forming relationships and deep friendships. But just because a teen may have a bad history of abuse or neglect, it doesn’t mean that they’ll become violent.

Starting fires and being cruel to animals is often a warning sign that can be linked to violent behavior. Teens that associate with people known to be involved with violent behavior or fantasy can also be an early warning sign. Other warning signs could include, preoccupation with destructive behavior along with morbid drawings and artwork. Often, teens with violent behaviors are socially isolated and victimized by peers. They dwell on experiences of rejection and injustices and react to criticisms with intense anger or desire for revenge and can often become obsessed with weapons.

When teens show any of these warning signs and especially if they make a threat against someone, it needs to be taken seriously. In many cases, teens told people exactly what they planned to do but no one called for help. To the friends or family they confided in, it seemed unfathomable that anyone could carry through with such crazy threats. Thus, they ignored the warning signs and in many cases, it was too late.

People don’t typically just snap. Pressure keeps builds up until they finally can’t contain themselves any more. Things like being a constant victim of bullying and feeling rejected and disrespected can eventually become too much to bear.

Don’t ignore the warning signs. If you are concerned, you should immediately arrange for a comprehensive evaluation by a qualified mental health professional. Early treatment can often help and can teach your teen how to control their anger, take responsibility for their actions and accept consequences.


The LoveEd Movement provides outreach and education for older teens and millennials on the dangers they face on and off-line as well as viable solutions for helping older teens and millennials make healthy relationship choices.

Please check out our Compassionate Dialogues Curriculum for teachers and school personnel to use with pre-teens, teens and millennials who are experiencing distress, depression, or are suicidal or homicidal.