Determinants of the Violent Criminal Behavior of Teenagers

By Gius, Mark | Atlantic Economic Journal, December 2006 | Go to article overview

Determinants of the Violent Criminal Behavior of Teenagers


Gius, Mark, Atlantic Economic Journal


Recent research conducted by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse and Columbia University has shown that children who frequently have dinner with their families are much less likely to smoke, drink, or use illicit drugs (Connecticut Post, 2005). An interesting extension of this research would be to determine if family influences have any effect on the propensity of teenagers to commit crimes.

Assuming an individual is a non-adult teenager (ages 12-17), earns no income, and the criminal act is non-monetary in nature, one may model criminal behavior as a utility-maximizing problem. A teenager would attempt to maximize his or her utility by allocating his or her time between criminal and non-criminal activities. The constraint would be total time in a given day. It is assumed that parental and peer influences will affect a teenager's propensity to commit a criminal act. If all influences are positive in nature, then all time is spent pursuing non-criminal activities, since criminal activities are viewed as bads and not goods. If, however, the influences are negative in nature, then the individual would engage in criminal activities, since both criminal activities and leisure would be viewed as goods.

Using the above as a theoretical basis, the following equation will be estimated:

C - [[alpha].sub.1]MALE + [[alpha].sub.2]SOUTH + [[alpha].sub.3]WHITE + [[alpha].sub.4]UR + [[alpha].sub.5]URBAN + [[alpha].sub.6]SIZE + [[alpha].sub.7]AGE + [[alpha].sub.8]PSMOKE + [[alpha].sub.9]PDRINK + [[alpha].sub.10]PGANG + [[alpha].sub.11]PDRUG + [[alpha].sub.12]PARENTS + [[alpha].sub.13]DINNER + [[alpha].sub.14]NOHS + u (1)

where C equals 1 if person committed a criminal act and 0 otherwise; MALE equals 1 if a person is male and 0 otherwise; SOUTH equals 1 if person is from southern states and 0 otherwise; WHITE takes the value of 1 if a person is white and 0 otherwise; UR equals 1 if the unemployment rate for the respondent's labor market of current residence is less than 6 percent and 0 otherwise; URBAN equals i if a person lives in an urban area and 0 otherwise; SIZE is the size of a respondent's household; AGE is the respondent's age; PSMOKE equals i if the respondent's peers smoke cigarettes and 0 otherwise; PDRINK equals 1 if the respondent's peers drink alcoholic beverages and 0 otherwise; PDRUG takes the value of I if the respondent's peers use illicit drugs and 0 otherwise; PGANG equals 1 if the respondent's peers belong to a gang and 0 otherwise; PARENTS equals 1 if the respondent has two parents and 0 otherwise; DINNER is the number of times the respondent eats dinner with his or her family in one week; NOHS equals 1 if a person dropped out or was expelled from school; and u is a normally distributed, random error term. …

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