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  • Writer's pictureClare Jerrom

Professionals need training in unconscious bias to tackle youth violence

Professionals should feel confident in recognising unconscious bias and discriminatory behaviour in order to tackle discrimination in relation to youth crime, a report has urged.

The 'Youth Violence and Us: The Culture of Youth Violence in Merseyside' report found that there are often complex social and emotional reasons that exist behind occurrences of youth violence. Instances of racism, homophobia and other forms of discrimination which fall into the category of microaggressions may not be picked up on from others who are not part of those respective communities.

"One potential way of dealing with this is to ensure that professionals in all sectors have access to ongoing training around unconscious bias and how to recognise discriminatory behaviour targeted at people from marginalised backgrounds and diverse communities," said the report.

Of the 338 people surveyed for the research, 90% said they had seen or been affected by youth violence in Merseyside. 11% were between the ages of 6 and 10 years old.

Young people from diverse communities, such as the LGBTQ+ community, face additional challenges and fears in relation to youth violence and can often feel intimidated or targeted due to their identity. Homophobia, racism and other forms of discrimination become enabled and accepted, the report found.

The PAC Merseyside team which carried out the research in that geographical area states that greater education around diversity and accepting or celebrating difference from an early age could tackle the wider issue in the long-term of people being specifically excluded due to an aspect of their identity.

The report highlights that:

  • Discrimination continues to be normalised especially when perpetrators target their comments or actions in a way which is dismissed by some as banter.

  • Given that young people were subjected to hearing racist slurs from ‘really young students who probably learn from their parents,’ it is crucial that schools and the education sector more broadly play a key role in breaking down stigma between different groups of people and adopting a culture of inclusion for children from an early age.

  • There was an inescapable generational cycle of prejudice which needs to be broken down through education, support, and learned understanding of others, particularly adults in positions of authority.

"Education and awareness raising is of the upmost importance in relation to issues such as racism and other forms of discrimination. Whilst there is certainly a more explicit element of racism in which individuals are threatened with physical violence, the problem as suggested here is often even bigger than some realise as microaggressions may not be picked up on by those who are not affected by it," said the report.

It emphasises how this feeds into the idea that issues of discrimination are often systemic in nature and so it is vital that the root causes of these problems are stamped out.

The report urges schools particularly to encourage diversity and for this to be embedded into wider curriculum so that it is seen as part of a wider context rather than a one-dimensional issue which is discussed in a few sessions but then moved on from.

The research also revealed that gender plays a role and whilst physical altercations and violence may be more likely between males as they may feel more intimidated and therefore comfortable or able to retaliate with violence, there is a sense that young females are likely to be met with with unwanted comments.

The conversation around violence against women and girls should be continued to evaluate any progress made while the voice of women and girls must be considered throughout by consultation and evaluation.

The report also urges educational spaces to promote diversity from an early age in a curriculum that celebrates difference and promotes a culture of inclusion. This should be alongside education around consent, respecting boundaries, and healthy relationships with friends, parents/carers and partners.


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