Academic journal article Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology

Modifiable Determinants of Youth Violence in Australia and the United States: A Longitudinal Study

Academic journal article Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology

Modifiable Determinants of Youth Violence in Australia and the United States: A Longitudinal Study

Article excerpt

Youth violence is a global problem. Few studies have examined whrther the prevalence or predictors of youth violence are similar in comparable Western countries like Australia and the United States (US). In the current article, analyses are conducted using two waves of data collected as part of a longitudinal study of adolescent development in approximately 4,000 students aged 12 to 16 years in Victoria, Australia and Washington State, US. Students completed a self-report survey of problem behaviours including violent behaviour, as well as risk and protective factors across five domains (individual, family, peer, school, community). Compared to Washington State, rates of attacking or beating another over the past 12 months were lower in Victoria for females in the first survey and higher for Victorian males in the follow-up survey. Preliminary analyses did not show state-specific predictors of violent behaviour. In the final multivariate analyses of the combined Washington State and Victorian samples, protective factors were being female and student emotion control. Risk factors were prior violent behaviour, family conflict, association with violent peers, community disorganisation, community norms favourable to drug use, school suspensions and arrests. Given the similarity of influential factors in North America and Australia, application of US early intervention and prevention programs may be warranted, with some tailoring to the Australian context.

Keywords: youth violence, risk and protective factors, adolescents, longitudinal study, cross-national study


Youth violence is a global problem that is costly to societies around the world (Herrenkohl et al., 2000; Rutherford, Zwi, Grove, & Butchart, 2007; World Health Organization, 2002). Costs of violence stem from harm caused to victims (e.g., medical expenses, absence from school or work, psychological harm) as well as policing and criminal justice responses and perceived safety in the community (World Health Organization, 2002, 2004). There is an upsurge in the rates of violence as young people leave childhood and enter adolescence (Elliott, 1994; Farrington et al., 1990). Understanding how youth violence develops is crucial for effective prevention and early intervention. To date, much of the longitudinal research on the factors that influence the development of youth violence has been conducted in the United States. This research sets a strong foundation, yet it is important to broaden the research focus to include other countries to examine universal and context-specific influences. This study compares the predictors of youth violence in an Australian state (Victoria) and the US state of Washington.

International Comparisons of Adolescent Violent Behaviour

The majority of studies on both the development of violent behaviour and evidence-based approaches to the prevention of violent behaviour have been conducted in North America. Examining the similarities and differences in the development of violent behaviour across North America and other countries may therefore have important implications for applicability of prevention approaches around the world. International comparative studies are also essential to distinguish between universal and context-specific influences on behaviour across countries and cultures (Jessor et al., 2003; Unger et al., 2002). Cross-national studies of adolescence can make significant contributions to the field (Hosman & Clayton, 2000) because comparisons identify similarities and differences in levels of adolescent behaviours (Denny, Clark, & Watson, 2003) and allow investigation of underlying factors that explain differences in prevalence. Nations with differing cultural and political environments are of substantial research interest.

In general, previous international comparison studies of problem behaviour have relied on opportunistic use of existing datasets. …

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