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This study contributes to school-based violence prevention programs by describing typical violent interactions. The findings come from the content analysis of transcribed interviews with 58 African-American middle school students who reported their participation in 121 violent incidents. The most frequent opening moves were offensive touching, interfering with possessions, hurtful play (including teasing), backbiting, requests to do something, and insults. About half the incidents occurred in school and a quarter took place at home. Respondents who acted violently often interpreted the situation as one in which they were being attacked or threatened. Other interpretations were that antagonists thought they had done something wrong, or that antagonists were engaged in offensive behavior. In about half the incidents, violent respondents stated that the goal of their violence was retribution, and in a quarter, compliance. Most of those interviewed accepted responsibility for deliberately deciding to be violent. They justified their actions by saying they were acting rationally by retaliating for harmful behavior done to them, punishing others for offensive behavior, or defending themselves, their friends, or their relatives. Incidents often escalated as older family members joined the transaction. Nonviolent responses were discouraged by the bad public image they presented. The paper lists recommendations for school-based conflict resolution that follow from these research findings.

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