Violence experienced and perpetrated by adolescents is a serious public health problem, affecting individuals, families and communities, according to background information in the article. Exposure to violence in adolescents' homes and communities has been associated with their own perpetration of violence. A 2004 study reported that arrest rates for violent crimes by adolescent girls have either increased or have decreased less than boys, from 1994 to 2002, giving rise to concern that girls were becoming more violent. However, self-reported data by both male and female teenagers show a decrease in violent behavior over the past decade. The true extent of violence perpetrated by girls is unknown.
Beth E. Molnar, Sc.D., of the Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, and colleagues examined data from the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods to assess the relationship between individual victimization and neighborhood violence and subsequent violence. Three in-home interviews were conducted approximately two years apart between November 1995 and January 2002 with 637 girls, ages nine to 15 years at baseline, and their caregivers. Community data were collected in 1995 from a random sample of Chicago residents.
The researchers found that at the baseline interview, 38 percent of the girls interviewed reported committing at least one type of violent act in the 12 months prior to that interview. Twenty-eight percent of the girls reported committing a violent act in the 12 months prior to the first follow-up interview, and 14 percent reported violent behavior at the third interview. The odds of violent behavior were 2.2 times higher among girls who reported previous violence victimization. Violent behavior peaked at 14 years. The probability of violence perpetrated by girls was higher in neighborhoods with higher homicide rates and concentrated poverty.
"Improving safety in communities and homes may reduce rates of violent perpetration by adolescent girls," the authors write. "Study results suggest that, to facilitate identification of and healing among adolescent survivors of violence, practitioners should recognize perpetration of violence as potential sequelae of prior violent victimization."
(Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2005; 159: 731 - 739. Available pre-embargo to the media at www.jamamedia.org.
Editor's Note: This study was supported by a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, to the Harvard Youth Violence Prevention Center. Funding for the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods was provided by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Philadelphia; the National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, Md., and the National Institute of Justice, Washington, D.C.
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