Victimization and Delinquency among Canadian Youth

By Paetsch, Joanne J.; Bertrand, Lorne D. | Adolescence, Summer 1999 | Go to article overview

Victimization and Delinquency among Canadian Youth


Paetsch, Joanne J., Bertrand, Lorne D., Adolescence


There has been growing concern about youth crime and violence. Young people are generally viewed by the public as committing more crimes now than in the past. While official crime statistics do indicate an increase in charge rates and court cases, it is unclear whether these are indicative of increased youth crime or are a result of greater societal sensitivity to youth violence and more aggressive police practices (Frank, 1992).

Few studies have examined the extent of reported and unreported violence and other criminal incidents involving Canadian youth. Ryan, Mathews, and Banner (1993) investigated the extent of violent offenses committed by students in grades 6, 7, 8, and 9 in two schools in Ontario. They found that between two-thirds and three-quarters of the students had either committed an act of violence or knew someone who did. Students in grade 8 at both schools reported the highest rates of violent offenses. Further, female students were found to be just as likely (and sometimes more likely) to commit violent offenses as were male students, with the exception of sexual violence.

Esbensen and Huizinga (1991) examined the correlates of delinquency using a longitudinal survey of 11-, 13-, and 15-year-olds in the United States. The self-report data indicated that, at least once in the past year, 36% of the youth had used alcohol, 22.5% had engaged in minor assault, 18% had committed minor theft (less than $50), 13% had used marijuana, and 7.5% had engaged in felony assault (e.g., using a weapon with the intention of seriously hurting someone). Overall, 51% of the youth had engaged in some form of delinquency at least once in the past year.

Data from the Uniform Crime Report (UCR) in Canada from 1985 to 1991 revealed that the victims of violent crimes by youth (12 to 17 years of age) tended to be other youth (Frank, 1992). This is consistent with findings from the National Crime Victimization Survey conducted in the United States from 1985 to 1988. Although youth under age 20 made up only 14% of the survey population, they accounted for 30% of the violent crime victims (Allen-Hagen & Sickmund, 1993). It was found that approximately 67 per 1,000 teenagers were victimized, as compared with 26 per 1,000 persons aged 20 or older. Further, teenagers were more likely to be victimized at school than elsewhere.

Finkelhor and Dziuba-Leatherman (1994), investigating nonfamily assault, family assault, kidnapping, sexual assault, and violence to the genitals, reported rates of violence against children (ages 10-16) that far exceeded government statistics. One-quarter of the children surveyed indicated being victimized in the past year, one-third reported attempted or completed victimization in the past year, and over one-half reported attempted or completed victimization at some time in their lives.

Research in Canada and the United States has examined the relationships between gender, age, and victimization. In Canada, for example, Ryan, Mathews, and Banner (1993) found that, of students in grades 6-9, those in grade 8 reported the lowest rates of victimization. Male and female students tended to be victims of different types of violent crime; males were more likely to be victims of physical violence, and females were more likely to be victims of sexual assault and less physically violent crimes.

A study of 1,272 high school students in the United States found that males were more likely to be victimized than were females, particularly in terms of violence-related crimes (Baker, Mednick, & Carothers, 1989). Older high school students (age 17 and above) had higher victimization rates than did younger high school students (under 17) for property-related crimes, but interestingly no significant differences were found for violence-related crimes.

Baker et al. (1989) hypothesized that since males are more likely to engage in delinquent behavior than are females, they are more likely to associate with delinquents and thus be victimized themselves. …

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