Childhood exposure to domestic and community violence has been linked to the development of PTSD, as well as depression and anxiety, and can negatively impact cognitive development and educational achievement. In addition, experiencing violence as a youth is considered a risk factor for delinquent behavior.
An October 2013 bulletin from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Protection takes a closer look at delinquency and victimization of juveniles, particularly where they overlap. In Children’s Exposure to Violence and the Intersection Between Delinquency and Victimization by Carlos A. Cuevas, David Finkelhor, Anne Shattuck, Heather Turner and Sherry Hamby, data from the National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence is used to examine the association between the incidence of children’s direct exposure to crime and their reported delinquent activities.
Researchers categorized youth into three main groups, Delinquent-Victim, Primarily Delinquent, and Primarily Victim, based on reported delinquent acts and victimization (experiencing three or more criminal acts) in the past year. Additional within-group classifications allowed for distinctions to be made regarding the types of reported behaviors and victimizations. The key findings are summarized below.
- For boys, the Primarily Delinquent group made up 20.8 percent of the sample, the Delinquent-Victim group made up 18.1 percent and Primarily Victims 17.9 percent.
- For girls, the Primarily Victim group made up 21.2 percent of the sample, the Delinquent-Victim group made up 13.3 percent, and the Primarily Delinquent group 13 percent.
- Among both boys and girls, the Delinquent-Victim group engaged in more delinquency than their male and female peers in the Primarily Delinquent group (boys, 3.9 versus 2.5 activities, girls 3.3 versus 2.0).
- Both male and female Delinquent-Victim groups reported more victimization that their counterparts in the Primarily Victim groups (boys 6.3 versus 4.5 different victimizations, girls 6.4 versus 4.2). Male Delinquent-Victims had a higher percentage in every category of victimization (except bullying) compared to males in the Primarily Victim group. For girls, perhaps the most significant statistic is the high sexual victimization rate among the female Delinquent-Victim group (58%) compared to that of the female Primarily Victim group (27%).
The researchers found patterns in the growth or reduction of each group as children aged, although this study was not longitudinal. Their analysis indicates that male rates of delinquency-victimization peak at ages 13-14, while for females it occurs earlier, at ages 11-12. This suggests interventions at the grade school level may be more successful than those introduced during the teenage years.
For over a decade The Urban Institute has tracked the long term impacts for families relocated by the Chicago Housing Authority to make way for their removal of public housing complexes throughout the city. The relocated residents report better housing and neighborhood quality since the move. For youth however, the improved living environment does not appear to have had a transformative effect on their lives.
According to the brief, Chronic Violence: Beyond the Developments, follow-up data from 2011 indicate that children in the new housing (voucher-enabled private rentals or refurbished public housing) were not attending higher quality schools and were still living in neighborhoods with nearly half of the residents below the poverty line. Parental reports of negative behavior and delinquent activity were similar to the baseline data of youth in the public housing complexes. In addition, academic performance remained a concern, with approximately 33 percent of the teenagers not in the appropriate grade for their age and about 66 percent unengaged in school or work activities.
Authors Chantal Hailey and Megan Gallagher discuss the presence and patterns of neighborhood violence as a continuing factor risk factor in the lives of these families, even after relocation, specifically the impact it has upon youth in the form of continued exposure to trauma, a nomadic lifestyle, and avoidance or isolation. The researchers at The Urban Institute recommend intensive case management services for the relocated families in Chicago, with the hope that such intervention would improve future outcomes.
The impact of neighborhood violence on youth can be devastating, both in perceived and actual threats of physical harm, the psychological toll of anxiety, and the impact of traumatic events on a child’s development. It should be noted that research identified similar problems for youth in “rough” neighborhoods from a sample that included families above the poverty line. Addressing the long-lasting impacts of community violence in a meaningful manner is challenging as both the context of the violence witnessed and gender differences in coping techniques may lessen responsiveness to standardized interventions “proven” in another city. The mixed perception of the outside “experts” (school officials, teachers, social workers, counselors, police, etc.) by community members may also serve as a obstacle in forming a partnership to reduce youth and adult violence. There is not a single policy nor intervention that will be able to neutralize or remove every risk factor, but based on the results of various initiatives across the country, a combination of behavioral interventions and police strategies may prove effective going forward.
The Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) has awarded organizations in Luzerne County $2.16 million in grants to fund programming for area youth. The monies come from restitution payment from a defendant in the in the case fixing or “kids for cash scandal” that drew the attention of the FBI, shook public confidence in court system officials and led to additonal procedural protections for youth in the juvenile justice system.
Seventeen programs were chosen out of a pool of over 50 proposals, including projects from Luzerne County Head Start, the Domestic Violence Service Center, Family Service Association of Wyoming Valley, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Northeastern Pennsylvania, and the creation of a new Luzerne County Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program. Individual award amounts and project details are included in a press release from PCCD, also available on their website.
Having their start in the late 1980’s and gaining in popularity since, drug courts are court treatment programs that target criminal defendants, juvenile offenders, and/or parents involved in the child welfare system who have alcohol and drug addiction and dependency issues. There are now approximately 2,600 drug courts operating in the United States, with 50 percent of them exclusively for adult offenders.
The December 2011 report, The Multi-Site Adult Drug Court Evaluation, by Shelli B. Rossman, John K. Roman, Janine M. Zweig, Michael Rempel and Christine H. Lindquist presents the findings of an extensive evaluation of the nation’s drug courts. The study examined the successful drug courts in reducing drug use and criminal activity among adult participants while having a positive impact on their lives in other ways. Key findings include,
- Yes, drug courts resulted in statistically significant reductions in relapse by participants. Compared to the group not on the specialized drug court track, participants were significantly less likely report any drug use (76 percent compared to 56 percent) in the past year (at the 1.5 year follow-up point). Also, fewer drug court participants tested positive for illegal drugs (29 versus 46 percent).
- Yes, drug courts resulted in a significant decrease in criminality of participants. Court patrons were significantly less likely than the comparison group to report committing crimes (40 versus 53 percent) in the year prior to the 1.5 year follow up contact. In fact, participants were also significantly less likely to report committing any crime at all at the six- month and the 18-month follow-up. Perhaps due to the nature the intervention, the researchers also found that drug court participation specifically reduced the crimes of drug possession, drug sales offenses, driving while intoxicated, and property related crime.
- Yes, members of the drug court sample did experience some positive personal outcomes outside of both reduced drug/alcohol use and criminality. Data from the 1.5 year follow up interviews indicated that drug court participants were significantly less likely than those in the comparison group to report an employment, education, or financial service need, and reported less family conflict. There were no differences between the groups for self-reported symptoms of depression or homelessness.
The evaluation report, downloadable in 4 parts, is available via the National Institute of Justice website.
With evidence that drug courts are working better than the traditional justice system with these type of offenders, support of their use and expansion makes good academic, practical and fiscal sense. Information about the Allegheny County Drug Court (that has been in operation for nearly 15 years) is available at the Allegheny County Department of Human services website.