Tuesday, April 22, 2008

What Causes Teen Violence?

Adolescents, Neighborhoods, and Violence: Recent Findings From the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods - 217397.pdf (pdf Object) Well one group of researchers in Chicago tried to find out by running an accelerated longitudinal study of 6000 kids in various Chicago neighborhoods. The interviewed the kids, and/or their caregivers for the youngest cohorts, regularly over several years. The results are mostly unsurprising.
Why did youth of different ethnic groups commit more or less violence? Their neighborhood conditions, parents’ marital status, and immigrant generation accounted for most of the difference.
Marital status matters. Kids living in 2-parent households are less violent than kids in single-parent homes.

Kids in neighborhoods consisting of first and second generation immigrants committed less violence, and this was strongly indicated by their own immigrant status (i.e., if the kids themselves were first or second generation).

Neighborhood status had a huge impact on the numbers.
Among these factors, neighborhood conditions had the strongest influence on youth violence, accounting for about 30 percent of the difference in violence between African-Americans and whites. Less violence was committed by youth living in neighborhoods with more first-generation immigrants and where more residents were employed in professional and managerial occupations. Youth living in neighborhoods where adult residents were more cynical about the law also reported more violence. Once these factors were accounted for, the neighborhoods’ racial composition did not matter.
On the individual level, youth with low verbal skills and poor reading skills tended to be more violent.

There is a whole section on guns in this report, but since guns are virtually outlawed in the city of Chicago, all of the interaction a kid will have with a gun will likely be an illegal gun. This is especially true of handguns, which are effectively banned - at least for the law-abiding. Other studies have shown that interaction with legal guns - via family for example - is a big influence with crime in youth. Kids exposed to legal guns by family are LESS - much less - likely to commit crimes of all sorts, while kids exposed to illegal guns are more likely to commit various crimes.

Still this is an interesting study of crime in society, conducted in one of the most crime-ridden cities in our country. Should policy flow from this?

One of the easy things would seem to be improve the reading and verbal skills of kids. But can we? Bill Cosby got crucified for noting that there is an anti-intellectual bent in some minority communities. Until those communities change that bias, the schools will not prevail. How can they? If kids don't want to learn, they won't learn. If no one in a neighborhood values academic achievement, then no one will achieve.

Look at and consider that factor in violence as explained above above. Neighborhoods contribute to less violence ...
where more residents were employed in professional and managerial occupations.
Where people value education and achievement, kids internalize the values we cherish in society, values like hard work and achievement and resolving issue without violence.

Hard to say what policies this should drive. Of course that is probably moot, because our elected reps won't read this brief - forget having them read the detailed report. Policies that back marriage? Policies that improve reading? And the multiculturalists will get in the act and say the polices are anti-something. They aren't really interested in fixing the violence in society. Politicians concentrate on pork barrel spending and raising taxes and terrorizing the electorate with whatever "the bad thing of the day" happens to be. The cultural police concentrate on the destruction of the American culture.

Anyway that's what I get for reading the FBI Bulletin.

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