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Community Correlates of Rural Youth Violence

NCJ Number
Date Published
May 2003
12 pages
This document discusses variations in rates of juvenile violence across non-metropolitan communities.
Social disorganization theory specifies that several variables, such as residential instability, ethnic diversity, family disruption, economic status, population size or density, and proximity to urban areas, influence a community’s capacity to develop and maintain strong systems of social relationships. This study examined the relationships between these community variables and rates of offending because the same relationships provide the core empirical support for the theory in urban settings. The sample consisted of the non-metropolitan counties in Florida, Georgia, Nebraska, and South Carolina. The sample included 264 counties with populations ranging from 560 to 98,000. The results show that the three variables most strongly and consistently associated with rates of crime and delinquency were residential instability, ethnic diversity, and family disruption. The data showed that residential instability was significantly associated with higher rates of aggravated assault, simple assault, weapons violations, and the overall Violent Crime Index. The correlation between ethnic diversity and violent offenses was statistically significant in most instances. The relationship between family disruption and juvenile arrest rates was the strongest in the study’s results. There was no meaningful relationship between rates of delinquency and rates of poverty. Arrest rates for juvenile violence varied dramatically with differences in the sizes (and densities) of juvenile populations. Whether a rural county was adjacent to a metropolitan area had little bearing on its rate of juvenile arrests for violent offenses. Social disorganization and related theories are appropriate starting points for developing either theories of crime specific to rural settings or theories of communities and crime that are general across settings. 5 endnotes, 3 tables, 33 references

Date Published: May 1, 2003