The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) is pleased to submit this report on OJJDP's Juvenile Violence Research Studies to the Committee on Education and the Workforce of the House of Representatives and the Committee on the Judiciary of the Senate. This report responds to Section 248(b)(6) of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (JJDP) Act of 1974, as amended by the JJDP Amendments of 1992 (Public Law 102-586, November 8, 1992).
Section 248(b)(6) provides that:
(6)(A) Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this subsection, the Administrator shall begin to conduct a study and continue any pending study of the incidence of violence committed by or against juveniles in urban and rural areas in the United States.
In response to this congressional direction, OJJDP funded four new violence studies and continued funding for three existing research projects examining the causes and correlates of serious and violent juvenile offending. Because of the breadth of the legislation, the researchers saw the need to select specific objectives upon which they would focus. The complexity of the research also required a longer timeframe to complete the research than the 3 years provided for the completion of the report. Extending the timeframe allowed OJJDP and the researchers to use the combined results of these studies to provide a wealth of information on each of the objectives.
It is important to recognize that the 1992 Amendments were enacted at a time when juvenile violence was increasing. As reported in two OJJDP publications, Juvenile Offenders and Victims: 1997 Update on Violence (Sickmund, Snyder, and Poe-Yamagata, 1997) and Juvenile Arrests 1997 (Snyder, 1998), the juvenile violent crime rate increased consistently from 1985 to 1994 and then decreased 12% from 1994 to 1996. Similarly, arrests of juveniles for homicide increased substantially between 1988 and 1993 but declined 39% between 1993 and 1997. Several of the funded studies examined violent juvenile offending at some point between 1992 and 1995. During the course of time required to complete these analyses, violent crime arrest rates have declined. Thus, the individual study findings regarding the level and prevalence of violence are not reflective of current downward trends in juvenile violent crime arrests. However, they provide descriptions of community initiatives and other relevant information that communities can draw on to further reduce the rate of juvenile offending. This report focuses on the issues of juvenile violence emphasized in the congressional directive, which addressed violence related to the substantial increase in juvenile violent crime in the early 1990's. Therefore, child abuse was not a focus of this report.
The Juvenile Violence Research Studies
The four new studies funded by OJJDP are described below.
Studies of Violence Committed By or Against Juveniles, Institute for Law and Justice, Washington, DC
The Institute for Law and Justice (ILJ), in partnership with LINC in Alexandria, VA, and The Urban Institute in Washington, DC, conducted a study of juvenile violence in the District of Columbia. There were two major components of the ILJ study, each focusing on specific objectives laid out in Section 248(b)(6)(D). First, ILJ directed the survey of 213 African-American males, ages 13 to 17, randomly selected from 3 of the highest crime areas in the District. These interviews provided a wealth of information about the attitudes, victimization patterns, and offending behavior of these adolescents. Second, The Urban Institute examined court records of juvenile cases and juvenile victimization records from the Metropolitan Police Department for the 3-year period from 1993 to 1995 to identify trends in juvenile offending and victimization, with a particular focus on violent offenses committed by or against juveniles. Additional information was obtained from two 1997 ILJ-sponsored focus groups that brought together community residents, community agency representatives, and community leaders for the purpose of discussing ways to reduce violent crimes committed by and against young people in the District of Columbia.
Juvenile Violence in Los Angeles: Collecting Juvenile Violence Data for Juvenile Violence Reduction, Social Sciences Research Institute, University of Southern California
Researchers at the Social Sciences Research Institute at the University of Southern California examined juvenile violence in the Los Angeles area, with special emphasis on gang violence. Using police department records, they looked at homicide incidents involving 12- to 17-year-old victims and/or offenders occurring in 1993 and 1994 to identify the participants and the circumstances of conflicts surrounding the incidents. In addition, they conducted interviews with youth from neighborhoods with high rates of juvenile violence to identify the characteristics and patterns of adolescent violence.
Violence Among Rural Youth, Institute for Families in Society, University of South Carolina
The Institute for Families in Society at the University of South Carolina conducted research on juvenile violence in rural areas. The research focused on five main issues: homicides committed by juveniles, patterns of gun ownership among nonmetropolitan middle school students, community factors affecting violence among rural youth, bullying and antisocial behavior among middle school students, and bullying prevention. The five studies were conducted between 1994 and 1997. The goal of this group of studies was to expand knowledge about the prevalence and nature of violence among youth in rural and nonmetropolitan communities, community-level predictors of youth violence, and the effectiveness of violence prevention strategies in rural communities.
The Milwaukee Homicide Study, University Board of Regents, University of Wisconsin System
The Milwaukee Homicide Study examined homicides involving juveniles and young adults that occurred in Milwaukee in 1992 and 1993, a period during which homicides were peaking in that city. The objectives of the study were to identify characteristics and patterns of behavior of youth involved in violence, identify factors associated with increased youth violence, and examine the role of firearms in youth violence. The study used life history information obtained from incarcerated offenders and next of kin of victims, plus official record data, to analyze differences across types of homicides and differences between victims and offenders. An analysis of the spatial distribution of Milwaukee homicides that occurred over the course of a longer period, from 1989 to 1993, was also undertaken.
In addition to these four studies, OJJDP continued its support of research examining the causes and correlates of delinquent behavior. The Program of Research on the Causes and Correlates of Delinquency (hereinafter Causes and Correlates), initiated in 1986, includes three coordinated longitudinal projects designed to improve the understanding of serious delinquency, violence, and drug use through the examination of how individual youth develop within the context of family, school, peers, and community. The three Causes and Correlates projects employ similar methodologies and collect both self-report and official record data. Samples were carefully drawn to capture inner-city youth considered to be at high risk for involvement in delinquency and drug abuse. The studies include the following individual projects:
The table on page 4 provides a list of the individual components of the studies that are included in this report and a very brief description of the sample(s) used in each component. More detailed information on the methodology of each study can be found in the appendix.
The remainder of this report is divided into sections based on the objectives set forth in Section 248(b)(6). Each section includes a brief discussion of the background literature provided by the individual reports and presents the findings of the various studies that are related to that objective.
Juvenile Violence Research Studies