Putting Youth Violent Victimization into Context: Sex, Race/Ethnicity, and Community Differences among a Multisite Sample of Youths

By Taylor, Terrance J.; Esbensen, Finn-Aage et al. | Violence and Victims, January 1, 2007 | Go to article overview

Putting Youth Violent Victimization into Context: Sex, Race/Ethnicity, and Community Differences among a Multisite Sample of Youths


Taylor, Terrance J., Esbensen, Finn-Aage, Peterson, Dana, Freng, Adrienne, Violence and Victims


The increased risk of violent victimization for adolescents relative to other age groups has recently become a major public health concern. The current study uses data from a multisite study of eighth grade youths attending public schools in 11 cities to determine the extent and nature of youth general and serious violent victimization among both sexes and five racial/ethnic groups in 11 diverse communities. This study explores differences in sex, race/ethnicity, and community independently and explores interactions between sex and community and race/ethnicity and community. Our findings suggest important differences in victimization prevalence and individual victimization rates by sex and community of residence. Racial differences were found to be closely tied to community. Policy implications resulting from our findings are discussed.

Keywords: violence; victimization; youth; gender; race/ethnicity; community

Youth violent victimization has received substantial empirical inquiry and concern as a public health issue. For example, Acosta, Albus, Reynolds, Spriggs, and Weist (2001) conducted a PsycINFO search for youth violence-related articles published between 1980 and 1999. A total of 1,168 articles were found, with approximately 30% focused on a description/assessment of youth as victims of violent crime. Articles on the topic also became increasingly common during that 20-year time frame, consistent with concern about a perceived "youth violence epidemic" between the mid-1980s and mid- 1990s (e.g., Cook & Laub, 1998; Tolmas, 1998), with research primarily focused on the issue of youth homicide (e.g., Coyne-Beasley, Schoenbach, & Herman-Giddens, 1999; Maxson, Curry, & Howell, 2002; Moskowitz, Laraque, Doucette, & Shelov, 2005; Reidel, 2003).

It is important to understand, however, that the bulk of the "youth violence problem" involves less serious forms of violent victimization in a variety of settings. Acosta et al.'s (2001) review of prior studies, for example, found that approximately 61% of the articles focused on general (or "unspecified") violence, with fewer focusing on violence occurring within the home (22%), schools (15%), communities (6%), and dating situations (1%). While emphasis on these contexts has continued, recent research has expanded the focus to include other contexts such as homeless/runaway youths (e.g., Baron, Forde, & Kennedy, 2001; Tyler, Hoyt, & Whitbeck, 2000; Tyler, Hoyt, Whitbeck, & Cauce, 2001; Tyler, Whitbeck, Hoyt & Cauce, 2004), youths residing in residential facilities (e.g., Browne, 2002; Stein et al., 2001), and youths involved with gangs (e.g., Maxson et al., 2002; Miller, 2001, 2002; Miller & Decker, 2001; Peterson, Taylor, & Esbensen, 2004).

One way to examine this topic is through a public health model outlined by Mercy and O'Carroll (1988, p. 290). This approach involves four components: (a) surveillance of the problem (i.e., epidemiology to determine its nature and scope), (b) risk group identification (i.e., identifying groups at particularly high risk of experiencing the problem), (c) risk factor exploration (i.e., identification of key factors that lead to increased risk among a segment of the population), and (d) program implementation and evaluation (i.e., designing and assessing treatments aimed at reducing the problem through the targeting of key risk factors). More recently, Moore, Prothrow-Stith, Guyer, and Spivak (1994) have argued that such a "public health approach" is essential for criminal justice researchers and policymakers to understand violence and intentional injuries in order to develop successful prevention and intervention programs aimed at reducing youth violence.

The current study focuses on self-reported violent victimization (i.e., simple assault, aggravated assault, and robbery) among a sample of American youth. Data were collected from youths attending public schools in 11 U. …

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