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The

largest proportionate increases occurred for those aged 10 to 14 years

(317%),

15 to 19 years (296%), and 20 to 24 years (78%), although the absolute

increase in rate among youths aged 10 to 14 years was not as great as in the

older age groups. The largest increase in homicide rates for African-American

males occurred for those aged 15 to 19 years (220%), 20 to 24 years (84%),

and

10 to 14 years (34%). Rates decreased for African-American men aged 25

years

and older. Among white females from 1970 to 1991, rates increased for those

aged 10 to 39 years, with the largest increases occurring among those aged 15

to 19 years (85%),,10 to 14 years (50%), and 20 to 24 years (43%).

African-American females aged 10 to 14 and 15 to 19 years experienced an

increase in homicide rates (65% and 47%, respectively). Rates remained

constant or decreased for African-American women aged 29 to 44 years. The

greatest racial discrepancies in homicide rates existed among those aged 15 to

24 years. In this age group, the homicide rate for African-American males

was

more than ninefold greater than that for white males. Among women aged 25

to

29 years, the homicide rate for African Americans was six times greater than

that for whites.

The Victimization Survey data for 1990 and 1992 showed that, regardless of

race and gender, those aged 12 to 24 years had the highest rates of violent

crime victimization. Among african-American males and females, youths

aged 16

to 19 years had the highest rate, followed by those aged 12 to 15 years. For

white males and females, youths aged 12 to 15 years had the highest rate,

followed by those aged 16 to 19 years. The rate of greatest magnitude

occurred

among African-American males aged 16 to 19 years. Data were not available

for

robbery, rape, or assault rates.

WEAPON INVOLVEMENT

The UCR data were used to examine weapon involvement in homicide and

aggravated assault. From 1973 to 1992, firearms accounted for more than

60% of

homicides (Figure 4). During this period, the percentage of firearms involved

in homicide and aggravated assault remained stable. The percentage of

stabbing

instrument involvement decreased slightly for homicide, while it increased for

aggravated assault. Involvement of blunt instruments remained unchanged in

homicide but increased 9% in aggravated assault. A 3% decrease occurred in

the

use of personal weapons (hands, feet, or fists) for homicide and aggravated

assault.

Firearm involvement in homicide from 1979 to 1991 increased for persons

aged

10 to 24 years (Table 2 and Table 3). The greatest rate of increase in

firearm-related homicide occurred among children aged 10 to 14 years and

decreased or remained the same for all groups aged 25 years and older

(Tables

2 and3). African-American males aged 15 to 19 years experienced the largest

absolute increase 352%); however, African-American men aged 20 to 24

years

experienced the most victimization.

Table 2. Temporal Trends in Firearm-Related Homicide

According to Age by Gender by Race(*)

Rate/1000

1979 1991

African African

Age, y White American White American

Males

10-14 0.7 2.4 1.4 8.2

15-19 7.2 34.8 11.7 122.6

20-24 12.6 88.3 14.6 162.9

25-34 12.1 104.5 10.8 96.8

35-44 9.9 78.1 7.2 53.4

Females

10-14 0.2 1.0 0.5 2.7

15-19 1.7 6.9 2.1 11.2

20-24 2.6 13.6 2.7 16.8

25-29 2.4 13.5 2.4 13.7

30-34 2.4 11.1 2.0 7.5

(*) Unpublished data are from the National

Center for Health Statistics.

Table 3. Percentae Change in Firearm-Related

Homicide Rates from 1979 Through 1991 Accordin

to Age by Gender by Race(*)

10-14 15-19 20-24 25-34 35-44

African American

Male +339 +352 +84 -7 -32

Female +257 +61 +23 … -32

White

Male +91 +62 +16 -14 -27

Female +268 +26 … … -16

(*) Unpublished data are from the National Center for Health Statistics.

Ellipses indicate no change.

COMMENT

Violence has increased substantially among African-American and white

adolescents of both genders. Both the highest rates and the greatest increases

in homicide were seen among adolescents and young adults (eg, aged *25

years).

By contrast, the overall homicide rate increased slightly from 1970 to 1991

and has remained static from 1979 to 1991. Thus, contrary to media reports

and

public perception, during the past decade the overall rate of homicide has not

been escalating but has remained relatively unchanged. Moreover, among

persons

older than 30 years, rates remained stable or declined. A similar picture was

evident for most other acts of violence, such that rates generally increased

among adolescents and young adults and generally decreased among older

adults.

The concentration of escalating violence during the adolescent and

young-adult

years was consistent across race and gender. Disparities along racial lines

were also found to be greatest in these age groups. African-American males

in

their adolescent and early adult years experienced a homicide rate ninefold

that of similar-aged white males. This difference remained, despite the fact

that the greatest increase in homicide during the past 20 years was

consistently seen among white males. African-American females in this age

range experienced rates several times higher than that of their age-matched

white counterparts. Finally, an alarming increase existed in firearm-related

homicides among adolescents and young adults under the age of 25 years. By

contrast, the proportion of homicides related to firearms decreased among all

adults older than 25 years.

IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS

Adolescents are now experiencing the highest and fastest increasing rates of

lethal and nonlethal victimization from violence. Despite their lower rates of

violent crime, as compared with older adolescents and young adults, the

increase in violence among youths aged 10 to 14 years is an especially

important–and alarming–finding. Violent juvenile crime arrest rates have

increased steadily in the past decade, reaching their highest rates in the

past 20 years.[17] Accompanying the increase in arrest rates has been a large

increase of weapon involvement in crimes committed by youths.[18] The

concentration of increasing violence during the adolescent years argues

strongly for the incorporation of a developmental approach to violence

prevention. The increasing involvement of weapons in victimization and

perpetration, largely limited to the adolescent population, centers on

firearms as the weapon of choice. Thus, before intervention or prevention

programs can address the problem of adolescent violence, research needs to

explore the appeal of firearms for adolescents, their motivation to carry

firearms, and their intention actually to use firearms.

As noted above, violence has traditionally been regarded by society as a

criminal act rather than a public health concern. Although, in the past

decade, a shift has begun in this orientation,[19,21] little attempt has been

made to examine the host of psychosodial and developmental factors

integrally

related to the act and experience of violence. Whereas much has been written

about the concentration of violence among the poor,[22] males,[23,24]

minorities,[25-27] and older adolescents and young adults,[23,28,29] a need

exists for a unifying research framework that underscores the fact that the

greatest concentration of violence is now centered among all adolescents,

with

adolescents as young as 10 to 14 years of age becoming increasingly

vulnerable.

DEVELOPMENTAL CONSIDERATIONS

The concentration of violence among our youths has important intervention

implications. Multiple developmental influences salient during adolescence

must be considered and incorporated into violence prevention and violence

treatment programs. Adolescence is a time of intense curiosity and risk

taking,[30] a time when individuals learn to think in probabilistic terms.

During adolescence, a transition occurs from concrete operational reasoning

to

more formal abstract thinking, including the ability to think beyond the

present and consider future goals. Confounding this maturation in thought,

however, is the adolescent’s feeling of invulnerability (eg, of being an

exception to the rule), resulting at times in experimentation without full

appreciation of the consequences of their actions.[31] Further examination is

required of the relationship between cognitive development and risk-taking

behavior, particularly engagement in violent activities.

Previous research suggests a potential link between increased exposure of

children to violence in their family setting or community and subsequent

increased acts of violence.[31] This finding suggests that violence may

involve a modeling process and reflect a socially learned behavioral response

to problematic situations and events, an interpretation that is consistent

with social learning theory. Social learning theory also suggests that

wide-scale changes in mass media to avoid modeling and reinforcement of

violent behavior through its glamorization will be essential to future efforts

to prevent violence in adolescents.[32,33] Furthermore, for self-directed

behavior change to occur, providing reasons to alter high-risk behavior is not

enough. Resources and social supports must be provided to facilitate change

in

behaviors.[34]

It must be recognized that violence-related activities–and, indeed, the

violent act itself–entail certain perceived benefits and appeals. For

example, there is empiric evidence of a strong association between drug

trafficking and violence (including firearms violence). 35 36 Early

adolescents involved in drug trafficking report high levels of economic

motivation[37,38] and high levels of thrill seeking.[39,40] Since the

immediate rewards from engagement in risk behaviors may be highly positive,

adolescents are likely to perceive the benefits of violence-related

activities, with little regard for the potential risks.[41-43] Furthermore,

biologic changes and transitions in relationships between the family, peers,

and intimate relationships[41]–all hallmarks of adolescence–will

significantly influence violence-related activities and interventions.

RACIAL AND SOCIOECONOMIC CONSIDERATIONS

Adolescence marks a transition in an individual’s development. It is a time

that requires the creation of a stable self-concept, both as an individual and

as a member of society. For African-American adolescents, there is the added

component of negotiating the minority experience as a member of a minority

race and an identity as an African American.[38,44,45] The integration of the

individual’s personal identity with his or her racial identity is particularly

challenging when poverty and racism interfere with the perceived pathways to

success and when local cultural systems run counter to national

norms.[38,46-48] Therefore, racial identity development must be incorporated

into a developmental model of violence prevention and intervention.

Furthermore, research efforts are needed to address the complex and

interactive sociocultural influences unique to different racial and

socioeconomic populations.

POTENTIAL LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY

Although all three data sets (the Victimization Survey, the UCR Program, and

the NCHS mortality data) provide strong evidence of increased violence

among

adolescents, overall rates and trends are not consistent among the three data

sets. A possible explanation for differences in rates (the Victimization

Survey rates are consistently higher than the UCR Program data rates) and

trends (the UCR Program data show a steady increase in violent crime rates

while the Victimization Survey data show rates to be steady or decreasing)

lies in the different methods of data collection. The Victimization Survey is

based on active surveillance (eg, individuals are contacted and questioned

semiannually about their experience with crime), while the UCR Program

data

are acquired through passive surveillance (eg, victims are required to notify

the police of the violent act). Only 40% to 50% of crimes are reported to

police,[13] possibly explaining the lower overall rates in the UCR Program

data. There is evidence of higher rates of reporting in recent years,



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