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Event Dynamics and the Role of Third Parties in Urban Youth Violence

NCJ Number
Date Published
May 2009
215 pages
Based on a secondary analysis of qualitative data collected from 1995 through 1998 as part of the New York City Youth Violence Study (NYCYVS), the current study's goal was to identify situational factors and contingencies that facilitated violence among 416 young violent male offenders from the South Bronx and East New York, two of the most violent neighborhoods in the Nation.
The analysis of event narratives reported in interviews with the violent offenders revealed six categories of event outcome severity: near-violence, violence but no injury, violence with minor injuries, violence with missing information on injury status, violence with serious injuries, and violence that resulted in one or more death. The most common "spark" for violent events among these young urban males involved an identity threat or challenge to one's personal status, masculinity, or respect. Participants also used violence when competing for females, as part of a drug business, in robberies, to exact revenge, in the defense of others, in situations of cheating or unfairness, in self-defense, disputes over money or unpaid debts, territorial disputes, misunderstandings, response to gossip, and jealousy. In these contexts, the youth made a variety of presumptions about the hostile intentions of potential opponents they encountered. They often read cues in social situations in order to establish the credibility of potential threats and to assess how to gain control in the situation. Status risks linked to backing down from a violent conflict often outweighed the physical risks associated with violent encounters. The escalation/de-escalation of events was critically influenced by the presence, identity, and reactions of observers/bystanders. The presence of weapons and alcohol/drugs significantly influenced the severity of event outcomes. Based on these findings, situational violence-prevention measures are proposed. The youth, whose ages ranged from 16 to 24, were asked by peer interviewers to reconstruct three or four violent events. Extensive tables and figures; approximately 500 references; and appended full interview protocol, detailed coding schemata, and journal articles produced from the study

Date Published: May 1, 2009