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The Incidence Of Violence Affecting Youth, Juvenile Suicide, Child Abuse/domestic Violence, An Ecological Framework For Understanding ViolenceJuvenile Homicide, Violence and Gangs, Violence and Drug Use

Violence in the United States is widely viewed, by policymakers and researchers, as an epidemic and a major public-health problem. Particularly in the wake of high-profile school shootings that occurred in the late twentieth century, the American public has shown increasing concern about violent adolescents and the harmful effects that exposure to violence has on children and adolescents. While high rates of lethal violence warrant attention, many more youth are exposed to chronic, nonlethal violence and aggression in their homes, schools, and communities. Violence rates generally follow economic trends and affect all youth, although poor, urban, and minority youth are most at risk. This article provides an overview of the incidence of violence, including suicide and homicide, among children and adolescents and its effects on them, and briefly reviews the effectiveness of intervention and prevention approaches to mitigating violence and its effects.

Juvenile homicide is the most severe and disturbing type of youth violence. The distinction between homicide and nonlethal violence may be somewhat arbitrary, however, because similar actions can produce either lethal or nonlethal outcomes.

Juvenile Victims

At the beginning of the twenty-first century in the United States, homicide was the second leading cause of death for youths age ten to nineteen. Homicide is the first leading cause of death for black male youths. Of all murder victims in 1997 (18,200 victims or 7 per 100,000 people living in the U.S.), 11 percent (2,100 victims or 3 per 100,00 juveniles living in the U.S.) were under age eighteen. Most juvenile victims (71%) were male black youths. Although black youth comprised only about 15 percent of the juvenile population, they were five times as likely as white youth to be homicide victims in 1997. This is a decrease from 1993 when the ratio was seven to one, but the ratio remained high compared with the early 1980s. Juvenile homicide rates for Latino youth appear comparable to those for blacks; for Native Americans the rates of violent victimization are the highest.

Despite some published reports, students are safer at school than elsewhere. Compared with non-urban youth, urban youth are at greater risk for violent victimization, including homicide, in any setting. All children are at highest risk for victimization in the hours immediately after school.

Firearm use among youths is a serious issue. Homicides of youths age fifteen to seventeen are more likely to involve firearms than for any other age group. In this age group, 86 percent of all homicides involved firearms. Rates of firearm-related juvenile homicide increased dramatically between 1987 and 1993, from about 800 victims (41% of juvenile homicides) to about 1,700 victims (61% of juvenile homicides), and showed some decline along with other crime statistics to about 1,200 victims (56% of juvenile homicides) in 1997. However, the rates of juvenile homicide with a firearm have continued to exceed those where no firearm was used.

Juvenile Perpetrators

Patterns of violent crime committed by youths generally mirror those for the general population. Juveniles committed approximately 12 percent of all murders in 1997. It is estimated that in 1997, of 18,200 murders committed, about 2,300 murders were committed by juveniles. Unlike murders committed by adults, 44 percent of all murders by juveniles involved more than one perpetrator (often including a young adult). Ninety-three percent of juvenile murderers were male, 56 percent were black, and 88 percent were between the ages of fifteen and seventeen. Juvenile murderers are more concentrated in urban areas and are usually the same race as their victims.

Gangs are active in urban, suburban, and rural areas. Most gang members are male (92%) and nearly half (40%) are under age eighteen. While the number of gangs and gang members decreased in the late 1990s, youth gangs remain responsible for a disproportionate share of all violent and nonviolent crime. Rates of violence are significantly higher for gang members than for non-gang members, and the rates are higher during gang membership than before or after.

Surveys of high school seniors show that the risk for perpetration of and victimization by violent and nonviolent crime is higher among students who use illicit drugs. Using multiple "hard" drugs was associated with the highest rates of violence.

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Social Issues ReferenceChild Development Reference - Vol 8