Youth Victimization: Prevalence and Implications, Research in Brief

Document Sample
Youth Victimization: Prevalence and Implications, Research in Brief Powered By Docstoc
					          U.S. Department of Justice
          Office of Justice Programs
          National Institute of Justice
APR. 03

                                          Research in B r i e f

          Youth Victimization: Prevalence and Implications
U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Justice Programs

810 Seventh Street N.W.

Washington, DC 20531

John Ashcroft
Attorney General

Deborah J. Daniels
Assistant Attorney General

Sarah V. Hart
Director, National Institute of Justice

This and other publications and products
of the U.S. Department of Justice, Office
of Justice Programs, National Institute
of Justice can be found on the World
Wide Web at the following site:

Office of Justice Programs
National Institute of Justice
APR. 03

          Youth Victimization:
          Prevalence and Implications

          Findings and conclusions of the research reported here are those of the
          authors and do not reflect the official position or policies of the U.S.
          Department of Justice.

          This research was supported by the National Institute of Justice under
          grant number 93–IJ–CX–0023.

          NCJ 194972


     Beyond cases reported to           A clear relationship exists
     authorities, little knowledge      between youth victimization
     exists on the types, amount,       and mental health problems
     and effects of childhood vic-      and delinquent behavior. For
     timization. Through a nation-      example—
     al survey of adolescents,
     researchers examined the           ■   Negative outcomes in vic-
     prevalence of sexual assault,          tims of sexual assault were
     physical assault, physically           three to five times the rates
     abusive punishment, and wit-           observed in nonvictims.
     nessing an act of violence and
     subsequent effects on mental
                                        ■   Girls who witnessed vio-
     health, substance use, and             lence were nearly twice
     delinquent behavior problems.          as likely as boys to experi-
     Gender- and racial/ethnic-             ence posttraumatic stress
     specific findings are translated       disorder.
     into national estimates.
                                        What were the study’s
     What did the                       limitations?
     researchers find?                  The nationally representative
     Rates of interpersonal vio-        sample did not include ado-
     lence and victimization of 12-     lescents from homes without
     to 17-year-olds in the United      telephones and certain high-
     States are extremely high,         risk adolescents (i.e., those
     and witnessing violence is         who were homeless or
     considerably more common.          housed in jails, juvenile
                                        correctional facilities, or
     Black and Native American          inpatient mental health treat-
     adolescents were victimized        ment facilities).
     more than whites, Hispanics,
     and Asians in each type of
     victimization. Much of the         Who should read
     violence experienced by            this study?
     youths is perpetrated by
                                        Criminal justice practition-
     peers or someone the victim
                                        ers, policymakers, and
     knows well. Most sexual
     assaults (86 percent) and
     physical assaults (65 percent)
     went unreported.
                               Y O U T H V I C T I M I Z AT I O N

                               Dean G. Kilpatrick, Benjamin E. Saunders, and Daniel W. Smith

                               Youth Victimization
                               Prevalence and Implications

                               Rates of interpersonal vio-          Findings from the National
                               lence and victimization of           Survey of Adolescents (NSA)
                               youths are extremely high in         validate these concerns.1 In
                               the United States. As of             1995, the NSA interviewed
                               1995, approximately 1.8 mil-         4,023 adolescents ages 12 to
                               lion adolescents ages 12 to          17 to obtain information on
                               17 had been sexually assault-        substance use, abuse, and
                               ed and 3.9 million had been          dependence; delinquent
                               severely physically assaulted.       behaviors as dictated by the
                               Another 2.1 million had been         type and amount of Crime
                               punished by physical abuse.          Index offenses—as deter-
                               Most pervasive is victimiza-         mined by the FBI’s Uniform
                               tion by witnessing violence,         Crime Reports—committed
                               with approximately 8.8 mil-          during the previous year;
                               lion youths indicating that          demographic information;
                               they had seen someone else           family history of substance
                               being shot, stabbed, sexually        abuse; posttraumatic stress
                               assaulted, physically assault-       disorder (PTSD); and victim-
      About the Authors        ed, or threatened with a             ization history. This informa-
Dean G. Kilpatrick, Ph.D.,     weapon.                              tion was then broken down
       is a professor at and                                        by age, gender, and racial/
  director of the National     The emotional consequences           ethnic group to allow com-
  Crime Victims Research       that youths experience be-           parisons across groups (see
    and Treatment Center       cause of victimization, such         “NSA Methodology” and
  (NCVC) and director of       as psychological disorders,          “Study Terminology”).
    the National Violence      substance abuse and de-              Clearly, victimization in early
 Against Women Preven-         pendence, and delinquency            childhood and adolescent
     tion Research Center.     problems, are often over-            years is the root of many
   Benjamin E. Saunders,
                               looked in research. More             problems later in life. Much
   Ph.D., is a professor at
                               openly, however, media               of the knowledge gained
    NCVC and director of
NCVC’s Family and Child
                               accounts of children seriously       from the NSA raises crucial
       Program. Daniel W.      harmed or even killed in vio-        issues that cross the lines of
Smith, Ph.D., is an associ-    lent episodes have brought           research, policy, and practice.
ate professor and director     such issues to the height of
      of training at NCVC.     the Nation’s consciousness.

                                   RESEARCH IN BRIEF / APR. 03

    Many studies have examined the relationships between childhood victimization and various mental
    health problems. Others have evaluated relationships between substance use and delinquency, and still
    others have tested possible relationships between childhood victimization and delinquency. Nearly all of
    these studies, however, have been conducted with samples recruited from clinical settings, juvenile or
    psychiatric institutions, agency records (e.g., child protective service records), and/or geographically
    limited areas. These recruitment methods significantly restrict the ability to generalize results obtained
    from previous studies.
    The NSA was the first study to examine simultaneously all of the relationships between victimization
    experiences and various mental health problems, substance use and delinquency, and childhood victim-
    ization and delinquency. The NSA also proposed a theoretically and empirically derived explanatory
    model connecting these variables and tested the model with a nationally representative sample.a
    Between January and June 1995, NSA researchers used random-digit dialing and stratified sampling
    techniques to identify households that met participant eligibility requirements for the study:
    ■   The household had to be able to be reached by telephone.
    ■   An adolescent between the ages of 12 and 17 had to live in the household with a parent or legal
    ■   Both the parent or guardian and the adolescent had to speak English and/or Spanish.
    Interviews gathered several types of information about substance use, abuse, and dependence.
    Adolescents were asked a series of questions to determine whether they met diagnostic criteria for
    substance abuse or dependence.b Questions explored such topics as nonexperimental alcohol use,
    the use of prescription drugs in a way not prescribed by a physician, use of marijuana or hard drugs,
    and frequency of drug use during the year prior to the NSA interview.
    Delinquent behaviors were measured using a slightly modified version of a scale first used by Delbert
    Elliott and colleagues in the National Youth Survey.c Adolescents were classified as a delinquent if they
    had committed at least one Crime Index offense as defined by the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports during
    the year prior to the NSA interview.
    Once identified, 4,023 adolescents were interviewed by trained employees of the survey research firm
    Schulman, Ronca, and Bucuvalas, Inc. Computer-assisted protocols ensured that every respondent was
    asked all pertinent questions. The data collected included demographic information, family history of
    substance abuse, delinquent behaviors, substance abuse and dependence, posttraumatic stress disor-
    der, and victimization history.d

    a. For more detailed information regarding survey methodology, see Kilpatrick, D.G., and B.E. Saunders, Prevalence and
    Consequences of Child Victimization: Results From the National Survey of Adolescents, Final Report, Washington, DC: U.S.
    Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice, 1997, NCJ 181028.
    b. American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Washington, DC:
    American Psychiatric Press, 1994: 175–183.
    c. Elliott, D., D. Huizinga, and S.S. Ageton, Explaining Delinquency and Drug Abuse, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 1985.
    d. For more detailed demographic information, see Kilpatrick and Saunders, 1997 (note a).

                                               Y O U T H V I C T I M I Z AT I O N

The following is a list of terms and definitions as they pertain to this study.
Delinquent behavior: committing one or more of the following Crime Index offenses—aggravated
assault; sexual assault; gang fights; motor vehicle theft; theft of something more than $50 in value;
breaking into a building or vehicle; or strong-arming students, teachers, and others.
Hard drug: a drug other than alcohol and marijuana, such as heroin, crack, cocaine, ecstasy, and so forth.
Lifetime prevalence: the percentage of adolescents and youths who have been victimized at any time
in their life.
Nonexperimental alcohol use: the consumption of five or more drinks on a given day during the previous
Nonexperimental drug use: the use of any illicit, hard drug four or more times during the previous year.
Physical assault: being attacked with a weapon, being attacked without a weapon but with intent to kill
or injure, being threatened with a gun or knife, or being beaten with an object or fists and seriously
Physically abusive punishment: a spanking that results in a youth’s need to see a doctor; a spanking that
results in noticeable marks, bruises, cuts, or welts; or punishment that includes burning, cutting, or tying
up a youth.
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD): a mental disorder diagnosed from a set of symptoms following
exposure to an extreme life stressor and characterized by intense fear, helplessness, horror, or, among
children, disorganized or agitated behavior.
Sexual assault: a range of acts, including the sexual penetration of a youth’s vagina or anus by a penis,
finger, or object; the placement of another person’s mouth on a youth’s sexual parts; the touching of a
youth’s sexual parts by another person or the forcing of a youth to touch others’ sexual parts; or the
unwanted penetration of others by a youth (asked only of male adolescents).
Stranger: someone the victim had never seen before or had seen before but did not know well.
Substance abuse: a maladaptive pattern of substance use that results in significant impairment or
distress, as indicated by one or more of the following problems: recurrent substance-related legal
problems, such as arrests; recurrent substance use in situations where it is physically dangerous, such
as while driving a car or crossing the street in heavy traffic; substance use resulting in a failure to fulfill
major role obligations at school, work, or home; and continued substance use despite having major
social or relationship problems because of use.
Substance dependence: a cluster of symptoms indicating a pattern of substance use that results in
tolerance, withdrawal, and compulsive substance-taking behavior.
Witnessed act of violence: any one of a variety of violent incidents, including seeing someone shot with
a gun, stabbed or cut, sexually assaulted, mugged or robbed, or threatened with a weapon.

                                RESEARCH IN BRIEF / APR. 03

                                 Types and prevalence                               victimization among black
                                                                                    and Native American adoles-
                                 of violence                                        cents. Notably, more than
                                 Lifetime prevalence of four                        half of black, Hispanic, and
                                 types of violence was exam-                        Native American adolescents
                                 ined: sexual assault, physical                     had witnessed violence in
                                 assault, physically abusive                        their lifetimes. Also, Native
                                 punishment, and witnessing                         American adolescents had
                                 an act of violence. Exhibit 1                      the largest prevalence rate
                                 presents the number, per-                          for sexual assault victimiza-
                                 centage, and population esti-                      tions; whites and Asians
                                 mates of adolescents who                           reported the lowest. With
                                 experienced each type of vio-                      respect to physical assault,
                                 lence and the racial/ethnic                        Native Americans, blacks,
                                 characteristics of the victims                     and Hispanics reported the
                                 of each form of violence.                          highest victimization preva-
                                 Particularly salient among                         lences—20 to 25 percent of
                                 these findings is the higher                       each group reported experi-
                                 prevalence of all types of                         encing at least one physical

Exhibit 1. Prevalence of violence types in the NSA sample and estimates for U.S. adolescents ages
12 to 17 and across racial/ethnic groups
                                                         Sexual           Physical           abusive            Witnessed
                                                         assault           assault         punishment           violence

Number of adolescents in sample (N = 4,023)               326               701                376                 1,586
 Percent of total sample                                    8.1              17.4                9.4                  39.4
Estimated number of victims in U.S. adolescent
population (in millions)*                                    1.8              3.9                2.1                   8.8
  White (%)                                                  6.7             15.6                7.9                  34.3
  Black (%)                                                 13.1             24.2               15.4                  57.2
  Hispanic (%)                                              10.0             20.9                8.4                  50.5
  Native American (%)                                       15.7             27.3               15.1                  55.7
  Asian (%)                                                  6.5              6.5                6.5                  26.1

Note: Percentages do not equal 100 because not all respondents experienced or witnessed a type of violence.
*Population estimates are based on 1995 U.S. Census data indicating there are 22.3 million adolescents in the U.S. population.
Source: National Survey of Adolescents, 1995

                                      Y O U T H V I C T I M I Z AT I O N

Exposure to violence differed      Sexual assault. The 326
according to gender. Girls         adolescent sexual assault
were at greater risk of sex-       victims experienced 462 sep-
ual assault than boys (13.0        arate cases of sexual assault.
percent versus 3.4 percent).2      In these cases, nearly three
Boys, however, were at sig-        in four (74 percent) reported
nificantly greater risk of phys-   that the assault was commit-
ical assault than girls (21.3      ted by someone they knew
percent versus 13.4 percent).      well. Almost one-third of sex-
A substantial number of all        ual assault cases (32.5 per-
adolescents (43.6 percent of       cent) involved perpetrators
boys and 35 percent of girls)      who were friends, and more
reported having witnessed          than one-fifth (23.2 percent)
violence. Physically abusive       were strangers. Another one-
punishment was similar for         fifth (21.1 percent) were
boys (8.5 percent) and girls       committed by a member of
(10.2 percent).                    the youth’s family, including
                                   fathers or stepfathers, broth-
                                   ers or stepbrothers, sisters or
Characteristics of                 stepsisters, grandparents,
sexual and physical                other adult relatives, and
assaults                           other child relatives. In terms
                                   of location, more than half of
For adolescents who report-        all sexual assaults occurred
ed experiencing sexual or          either within the victim’s
physical assaults, additional      home (30.5 percent) or in the
information about the charac-      victim’s neighborhood (23.8
teristics of the assault were      percent). Another 15.4 per-
assessed, including the            cent of sexual assaults oc-
identity of the perpetrator,       curred at the victim’s school.
the location of the assault,
whether the youth experi-          Another important character-
enced a physical injury during     istic is the extent of actual
the assault, whether the           and potential violence in-
youth perceived that his or        volved. Slightly more than
her life was in danger, and        one in four sexual assault vic-
whether the assault was ever       tims (28.1 percent) said they
reported to authorities.           feared death or serious injury
(Similar characteristics about     during their sexual assault.
physically abusive punish-         However, the majority (69.5
ment and witnessed violence        percent) said they had no
events were not gathered.)         such fears. With respect to


    physical injuries, only 1.3 per-    members, adult or child rela-
    cent of sexual assault cases        tives, neighbors, or cowork-
    resulted in serious injuries        ers. In terms of location,
    outside the sexual assault          physical assaults were most
    itself, and 11 percent result-      likely to occur somewhere
    ed in minor injuries.               within the victim’s neighbor-
                                        hood (34.2 percent) or home
    Thirteen percent of sexual          (27.9 percent). Another 20.2
    assault cases were reported to      percent occurred at the vic-
    police, 5.8 percent to child pro-   tim’s school.
    tective services, 5 percent to
    school authorities, and 1.3 per-    With respect to the extent of
    cent to other authorities. The      actual and potential violence
    majority of sexual assaults (86     involved, physical assaults
    percent), however, went unre-       were reported to involve
    ported. (These percentages          more perceived life threats
    total more than 100 percent         and injuries than were sexual
    because some cases were             assaults. In more than half
    reported to more than one           (52.4 percent) of physical
    type of authority.) In 4 percent    assaults, victims said they
    of the cases, victims either        feared being seriously injured
    were not sure whether cases         or killed. Although the largest
    had been reported or refused        group of physical assault vic-
    to answer the question.             tims reported that they had
                                        not sustained any physical
    Physical assault. The 701           injuries (47.5 percent), close
    adolescent physical assault         to half (45 percent) reported
    victims experienced 1,054           minor injuries. Only a small
    separate cases of physical          percentage (4.5 percent)
    assault. In these cases, 6 in       reported serious injuries.
    10 (62 percent) reported that
    the assault was committed           Similar to sexual assaults,
    by someone they knew well.          physical assaults were gener-
    Slightly more than one-third        ally unlikely to be reported to
    (36.4 percent) reported             authorities. Of all physical
    that the perpetrator was a          assaults, 65 percent were
    stranger. Of perpetrators           never reported. Of the cases
    known by the victim, friends        that were reported, most
    (20.5 percent) were the most        were reported to police (16.9
    commonly reported perpetra-         percent) or school authorities
    tor. Other less commonly            (16.3 percent). The remaining
    reported perpetrators in-           cases included reports to
    cluded immediate family             other authorities (3.8 percent)

                                                    Y O U T H V I C T I M I Z AT I O N

or child protection agencies                    substance abuse or depend-
(2.8 percent). Adolescents in                   ence, and delinquent behav-
2.8 percent of cases either                     ior. Exhibit 2 presents the
were not sure if reports had                    percentage of all respon-
been made or refused to                         dents who reported each of
answer the question.                            these types of problems, as
                                                well as the percentages
                                                across age, gender, and
Mental health                                   racial/ethnic group.
problems and
                                                PTSD. In the overall sample,
delinquent behavior                             the lifetime prevalence of
The NSA examined the rates                      PTSD was 8.1 percent, indi-
with which adolescents                          cating that, as of 1995,
reported mental health                          approximately 1.8 million
problems, such as PTSD,                         adolescents had met the

Exhibit 2. Percentage of self-reported adolescent lifetime mental health and delinquent behavior
problems in total sample and by age, gender, and racial/ethnic group
                         Posttraumatic           Alcohol        Marijuana         Hard drug
                            stress               abuse/          abuse/            abuse/      Delinquent
Group                      disorder            dependence      dependence        dependence     behavior

  Male                          6.2               6.3                4.7                 1.2      17.7
  Female                       10.1               4.9                4.2                 1.1       6.7
  12                            3.4               0.3                0.1                 0.0       6.4
  13                            6.9               1.5                1.0                 0.4       8.9
  14                            6.8               2.7                2.4                 0.1       9.5
  15                            8.2               4.5                6.6                 1.3      14.8
  16                           10.1              11.3                8.7                 2.8      17.1
  17                           13.1              14.2                8.3                 2.2      17.8
  White                         7.3               6.0                4.7                 1.1       9.9
  Black                        11.0               4.4                2.4                 0.2      18.8
  Hispanic                     11.6               6.4                6.1                 1.6      16.8
  Native American               7.1               5.7                7.9                 2.9      25.9
  Asian                         6.5               2.2                2.1                 0.0       8.5
Total sample                    8.1               5.6                4.5                 1.2      12.3

Source: National Survey of Adolescents, 1995

                              RESEARCH IN BRIEF / APR. 03

                              criteria for PTSD at some                Hispanic adolescents, a find-
                              point during their lifetime.             ing somewhat surprising
                              Girls were significantly more            among Native Americans
                              likely than boys to have life-           because of their high level of
                              time PTSD (10.1 percent                  exposure to violence. This
                              versus 6.2 percent). The                 finding suggests that re-
                              prevalence of PTSD rises sig-            sponses to victimization may
                              nificantly with increasing age,          be different among racial/
                              as older youths have more                ethnic groups.
                              time for exposure to poten-
                              tially traumatic events. It is           Substance abuse or
                              noteworthy that the rate of              dependence. Overall, 9.1
                              lifetime PTSD among 17-                  percent of American adoles-
                              year-olds was 13.1 percent.              cents reported meeting diag-
                              This means that more than                nostic criteria for lifetime
                              one in eight 17-year-olds has            substance abuse or depend-
                              had PTSD at some point in                ence for alcohol or any drug.3
                              his or her lifetime.                     This means that as of 1995,
                                                                       approximately 2 million
                              With respect to race and                 adolescents had met diag-
                              ethnicity, whites, Native                nostic criteria for substance
                              Americans, and Asians had                abuse or dependence at
                              significantly lower rates of             some point in their lives.
                              PTSD than did black and                  More specifically, the NSA
                                                                       found that the lifetime preva-
                                                                       lence of alcohol abuse or
                                                                       dependence among adoles-
    THE NSA IN SCHOLARLY JOURNALS                                      cents was 5.6 percent, the
                                                                       lifetime prevalence of mari-
    Acierno, R., D.G. Kilpatrick, H.S. Resnick, B.E. Saunders, M. de
    Arellano, and C.L. Best. “Assault, PTSD, Family Substance
                                                                       juana abuse or dependence
    Use, and Depression as Risk Factors for Cigarette Use in           was 4.5 percent, and the life-
    Youth: Findings From the National Survey of Adolescents.”          time prevalence of hard drug
    Journal of Traumatic Stress 13 (2000): 381–396.                    abuse or dependence was
    Crouch, J.L., R.F. Hanson, B.E. Saunders, D.G. Kilpatrick, and     1.2 percent.
    H.S. Resnick. “Income, Race/Ethnicity, and Exposure to
    Violence in Youth: Results From the National Survey of             Boys were significantly more
    Adolescents.” Journal of Community Psychology 28 (2000):           likely than girls to have met
    625–641.                                                           diagnostic criteria for lifetime
    Kilpatrick, D.G., R.E. Acierno, H.S. Resnick, B.E. Saunders,       abuse of or dependence on
    C.L. Best, and P.P. Schnurr. “Risk Factors for Adolescent          alcohol, but not marijuana or
    Substance Abuse and Dependence: Data From a National               hard drugs. Each type of
    Sample.” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 68
    (2000): 19–30.
                                                                       abuse or dependence was
                                                                       significantly related to age:

                                       Y O U T H V I C T I M I Z AT I O N

■   Rates of alcohol abuse or       approximately three times
    dependence essentially          more likely to have ever com-
    doubled each year be-           mitted an Index offense than
    tween ages 12 and 16.           girls (17.7 percent and 6.7
                                    percent, respectively). In
■   Rates of marijuana abuse        regards to race and ethnicity,
    or dependence more than         white and Asian adolescents
    doubled each year be-           reported significantly lower
    tween ages 12 and 15.           rates of Index offenses than
                                    did black, Native American,
■   Rates of hard drug abuse        or Hispanic adolescents.
    or dependence increased
    dramatically from age 14
    to 16.                          Victimization and
These findings reflect the          mental health
extent to which the risk            problems/delinquency
of alcohol and drug prob-
                                    NSA results indicate clear
lems increases dramatically
                                    relationships between the
throughout adolescence.
                                    experience of youth victim-
Rates of problem substance
                                    ization and mental health
use were very similar across
                                    problems (i.e., PTSD and sub-
racial and ethnic groups. The
                                    stance abuse or dependence)
only significant difference
                                    and delinquent behavior.
was that black and Asian
adolescents were significant-       Relationships with sexual
ly less likely to report lifetime   assault. Among boys who
marijuana abuse or depend-          had experienced sexual
ence than were white, His-          assault, 28.2 percent had
panic, and Native American          PTSD at some point in their
youths.                             lives. The rate of lifetime
                                    PTSD among boys who had
Delinquent behavior. Slightly
                                    not been sexually assaulted
more than 12 percent of ado-
                                    was 5.4 percent. Similarly,
lescents acknowledged com-
                                    sexually assaulted girls had a
mitting at least one Index
                                    lifetime PTSD rate of 29.8
offense at some point in their
                                    percent, compared with only
lifetime. This percentage
                                    7.1 percent of girls with no
translates to an estimated
                                    sexual assault history. There-
2.7 million adolescents in the
                                    fore, a history of sexual
United States who have
                                    assault was associated with
engaged in serious delin-
                                    a four- to fivefold increase in
quent behavior. Boys were
                                    the prevalence rate of PTSD.


     More than one-third (34.4          Relationships with physical
     percent) of boys who had           assault or physically abu-
     been sexually assaulted            sive punishment. Experi-
     demonstrated substance             encing either a physical
     abuse or dependence at             assault or physically abusive
     some point during their life-      punishment was associated
     times. The rate of lifetime        with a lifetime PTSD rate of
     substance abuse or depend-         15.2 percent for boys. The
     ence in nonsexually assault-       rate of lifetime PTSD in boys
     ed boys was 9 percent. A           who had not been physically
     similar pattern was noted for      assaulted or abusively pun-
     girls: 27.5 percent of those       ished was 3.1 percent.
     sexually assaulted reported        Among girls who reported
     lifetime substance abuse or        experiencing physical assault
     dependence, and only 5.4           or physically abusive punish-
     percent of those nonsexually       ment, the rate of lifetime
     assaulted reported such            PTSD was 27.4 percent,
     problems.                          compared with 6 percent
                                        among those with no history
     Almost half (47.2 percent) of      of physical assault or physi-
     the sexually assaulted boys        cally abusive punishment.
     reported engaging in delin-
     quent acts, compared with          Similar overall patterns were
     only 16.6 percent of those         noted with respect to sub-
     not sexually assaulted. Sex-       stance use. Approximately
     ually assaulted girls reported     25 percent of physically
     engaging in delinquent acts        assaulted or abused adoles-
     less often (19.7 percent).         cents reported lifetime sub-
     This rate, however, was            stance abuse or dependence.
     approximately five times           Rates of substance problems
     higher than the delinquency        among nonphysically assault-
     rate of girls who had not          ed or abused adolescents
     been sexually assaulted (4.8       were roughly one-fifth (approx-
     percent). Overall, victimiza-      imately 6 percent) of those
     tion by sexual assault is clear-   reported by assault or abuse
     ly associated with dramatic        victims. Differences, how-
     increases in the rates of each     ever, existed across genders.
     negative outcome among             Substance abuse and depend-
     both boys and girls. The           ence rates for each type of vic-
     increases were quite large,        timization were similar among
     ranging from three to five         boys (approximately 24 per-
     times the rates observed in        cent in both physical abuse
     nonvictims.                        and physical assault groups)

                                      Y O U T H V I C T I M I Z AT I O N

but not among girls. Fewer         Relationships with wit-
physically abused girls report-    nessed violence. Although
ed problems with substance         witnessing violence was con-
abuse or dependence than           siderably more common than
those physically assaulted         personal victimizations in the
(17.3 percent versus 26.4 per-     NSA sample, rates of PTSD
cent). Of note, the rate of sub-   associated with this form of
stance use problems among          violence exposure were                  The rate of
nonphysically abused girls         notably lower. Among boys
is substantially lower (7.2        who had witnessed violence,             PTSD among
percent).                          11.2 percent had met diag-              girls who had
                                   nostic criteria for PTSD at
The relationship between a         some time in their lives. Boys          witnessed
history of physical assault/       who reported never witness-             violence was
abusive punishment and             ing violence had a lifetime
delinquency was particularly       PTSD rate of 2.3 percent.
                                                                           nearly double
strong. The percentage of          The rate of PTSD among girls            that of boys.
boys who were physically           who had witnessed violence
assaulted and had ever com-        (20.2 percent) was nearly
mitted an Index offense was        double that of boys. Only 4.2
46.7 percent, compared with        percent of girls who reported
9.8 percent of boys who            no history of witnessed vio-
were not assaulted. Similarly,     lence had ever had PTSD.
29.4 percent of physically
assaulted girls reported hav-      Among boys who witnessed
ing engaged in serious delin-      violence, 17 percent reported
quent acts at some point in        lifetime substance abuse or
their lives, compared with 3.2     dependence. Only 4.4 percent
percent of nonassaulted girls.     of boys who did not witness
The results for physically abu-    violence reported lifetime
sive punishment resembled          substance abuse or depend-
those for physical assault, in     ence. Among girls who did or
that 44.6 percent of abused        did not witness violence, the
boys had engaged in delin-         lifetime substance abuse or
quent acts, compared with          dependence rates were near-
15.1 percent of nonabused          ly identical to those of boys
boys. Of abused girls, 20 per-     (17.8 percent and 3.1 percent,
cent had ever participated in      respectively).
delinquent activities, com-
pared with 5.2 percent of          Approximately one-third (32
nonabused girls.                   percent) of boys who wit-
                                   nessed violence reported


     ever engaging in delinquent        behavioral problems. Given
     acts, compared with only 6.5       the strong associations
     percent of boys who did not        between victimization and
     witness violence. Approxi-         negative outcomes, research
     mately 17 percent of girls         about adolescent alcohol and
     who witnessed violence             drug use and delinquency
     reported lifetime delinquent       should screen for history of
     behavior, compared with 1.4        violent assault and witness-
     percent of girls who did not       ing violence.
     witness violence.
                                        The NSA findings indicate
                                        that the bulk of violent
     Implications                       assaults are perpetrated
                                        by someone the victim
     Future research. Longitudinal      knows well rather than by
     research is needed to clarify      a stranger. Further research
     the temporal sequence of vic-      is needed about the circum-
     timization; PTSD; substance        stances and behavioral
     use, abuse, or dependence;         sequences that precede and
     and delinquent behavior            follow such assaults. Such
     among adolescents. This is         data might prove useful in
     particularly important given       the design of violence pre-
     that the prevalence of violent     vention programs.
     assault, witnessing violence,
     alcohol and drug use, and          The roles of specific types of
     delinquent behavior increases      victimization and particular
     dramatically between the           characteristics of victimiza-
     ages of 12 and 17. Such            tions should be evaluated in
     research should examine the        the development of sub-
     temporal sequence of prob-         stance use problems and
     lem development as well as         delinquency, especially with
     risk and protective factors that   gender and racial/ethnic sub-
     are related to victimization,      groups. Results suggest that
     alcohol and drug use, PTSD,        some types of victimization
     and delinquent behavior.           are more important for pre-
                                        dicting problems in certain
     The NSA research demon-            subgroups. Further refine-
     strates the feasibility of ob-     ment and testing of these
     taining detailed information       hypotheses are needed.
     from adolescents about their
     victimization experiences,         Research also is needed to
     exposure to violence, and          better understand the factors
     related mental health and

                                     Y O U T H V I C T I M I Z AT I O N

that contribute to the dramat-    substance use and delin-
ic underreporting of crimes       quency. Although all child
against children and adoles-      and adolescent victimizations
cents. Although some re-          cannot be prevented, at least
search exists in this area,       some of the long-term nega-
most reasons offered for          tive effects leading to sub-
underreporting are simply         stance use and delinquency
conjecture. Intervention          may be mitigated if more vic-
cannot occur without case         timizations are recognized
identification.                   earlier and effective interven-
                                  tion is provided.
Policy and practice. The
NSA research demonstrates         Mental health programs
the feasibility of gathering      designed to reduce common
meaningful data directly from     psychological problems as-
adolescents and families          sociated with child and ado-
regarding these difficult top-    lescent victimization are
ics. Unfortunately, trends        common, but few include
cannot be detected without        specific interventions delay-
ongoing data collection. Fu-      ing the onset of substance
ture crime victimization sur-     use and reducing substance
veys might consider using         abuse or delinquency. The
methods such as telephone         NSA findings may be benefi-
surveys, interviews with indi-    cial to mental health practi-
vidual adolescents, and more      tioners as they screen for
sensitive screening ques-         victimization and consider the
tions. Such methodological        types of prevention compo-
changes may provide a more        nents of their victimization
detailed picture of adolescent    treatment protocols.
victimization trends over
time.                             The findings also suggest
                                  that proactive, creative com-
The NSA results strongly          munity programs are needed
suggest that victimization        to encourage children and
and its mental health corre-      others to report crimes to
lates play a role in the devel-   law enforcement. The consis-
opment of substance use           tent underreporting of vio-
and delinquency behavior          lence against children and
among adolescents. Policies       adolescents points to a need
that promote the prevention       for collaborative efforts
of child and adolescent vic-      among law enforcement,
timization also would pro-        criminal and juvenile justice
mote the prevention of youth      professionals, victim service


     providers, the news media,              and Adolescent Victimization in
     educators, and allied pro-              America: Prevalence and Implica-
                                             tions, NCJ 186167) can be obtained
     fessionals that focus on en-            from NCJRS (800–851–3420 or
     couraging victimized youths             301–519–5500). Electronic versions
     to report crimes and provide            of this Research in Brief can be
     them with appropriate and               accessed online at http://www.ojp.
     safe venues in which to do so. or

                                             2. In this report, female adolescents
                                             are referred to as “girls” and male
     Notes                                   adolescents are referred to as
     1. This Research in Brief is a con-
     solidated version of the full report,
                                             3. American Psychiatric Association,
     Prevalence and Consequences of
                                             Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of
     Child Victimization: Results From
                                             Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition,
     the National Survey of Adolescents,
                                             Washington, DC: American Psychia-
     Final Report (NCJ 181028). Copies
                                             tric Press, 1994.
     of the full report and an executive
     summary of the full report (Child

       The National Institute of Justice is the
      research, development, and evaluation
   agency of the U.S. Department of Justice
       and is solely dedicated to researching
         crime control and justice issues. NIJ
provides objective, independent, nonpartisan,
     evidence-based knowledge and tools to
    meet the challenges of crime and justice,
     particularly at the State and local levels.

   NIJ is a component of the Office of Justice
 Programs, which also includes the Bureau of
     Justice Assistance, the Bureau of Justice
      Statistics, the Office of Juvenile Justice
         and Delinquency Prevention, and the
                  Office for Victims of Crime.

Description: NIJ, April 2003, NCJ 194972. (16 pages).