BACKGROUND: Escalation of youth violence within a large geographic school-complex area in southeastern rural Hawaii became a major problem in 2006. How cultural forces impact the problem was an impetus to examine youth violence from perspectives of adults and children in rural communities. Gathering these data was an essential first step toward school-based youth violence prevention program development.
METHODS: Eight focus groups involving 86 community stakeholders included 51 adults (parent, teachers, school staff, community leaders) and 35 children aged 8-15 years old (3rd- to 10-th grade). Qualitative narrative analysis elicited major themes.
RESULTS: Five themes emerged: (1) School-community violence takes on many forms that become entrenched in local culture. (2) Disintegration of community resources and a sense of learned helplessness underlie the escalation of youth violence. (3) Inadequate role modeling coupled with behavioral ambivalence among adults has sustained a climate of local cultural acceptance with youth violence. (4) Connection to cultural values has diminished, leading to a sense of loss in cultural identity among students. (5) Cultural values and practices are potential strategies for youth violence prevention.
CONCLUSIONS: Cultural and community contextual factors contributed to youth violence in rural Hawaiian communities. Study implications include the need to further investigate the impact of vigilant, community involvement of stakeholders in school-based youth violence prevention program development. Cultural revitalization at family, school, and community levels may be critical success factors of such programs.