Objective: This study examined the respective roles of personal and environmental factors in youth violence in a nationally representative sample of 7548 postmandatory school students and apprentices ages 16–20 years in Switzerland.
Methods: Youth violence was defined as having committed at least one of the following in the previous 12 months: attacking an adult, snatching something, carrying a weapon, or using a weapon in a fight.
Different ecological levels were tested, resulting in a three-level model only in males (individual, classroom, and school) as the low prevalence of female violence did not allow for a multilevel analysis. Dependent variables were attributed to each level. For males, the classroom level (10%) and the school level (24%) accounted for more than one third in interindividual variance.
Results: Factors associated with violence perpetration in females were being a victim of physical violence and sensation seeking at the individual level. In males, practicing unsafe sex, sensation seeking, being a victim of physical violence, having a poor relationship with parents, being depressed, and living in a single-parent household at the individual level; violence and antisocial acts at the classroom level; and being in a vocational school at the school level showed a correlation with violence perpetration.
Conclusion: Interventions at the classroom level as well as an explicit school policy on violence and other risk behaviors should be considered a priority when dealing with the problem of youth violence. Furthermore, prevention should take into account gender differences.