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Trajectories of Violent Offending and Risk Status in Adolescence and Early Adulthood

NCJ Number
Date Published
March 2006
169 pages
Based on longitudinal data from Waves I to VII of the National Youth Survey, this study of violent offending in adolescence and early adulthood identified risk factors that influence offending and examined how offending and risk levels change during adolescence and into early adulthood.
Regarding violent offending, the study's best model identified five distinct trajectories among the 1,227 youth for whom data were available on violent offending at each wave. The five trajectories are low/stable (67.6 percent); adolescent onset (11.9 percent); young adult onset (11.8 percent); early onset/chronic (5.3 percent); and early onset/desister (3.4 percent). Offending in the early onset/chronic group persisted into early adulthood, and the young adult onset and desister groups did not correspond to offending patterns predicted by developmental criminological theory. In addition, violent offending persisted into young adulthood for the adolescent onset group, although the trajectory for this group began declining after age 18. Being male was the most consistent risk factor for membership in a trajectory group for which the probability of classification as a violent offender was high relative to the largest and normative low/stable group. Risk linked to beliefs that legitimize aggression (BLA) and bonding with delinquent peers (BDP), measured at baseline, were predictive of membership in these trajectory groups as well. Other risk measures and other demographic measures were less consistently related to membership in offending trajectory groups. Regarding implications of these findings for preventing violence, BLA reduction strategies are a promising primary prevention strategy in interventions that target the general population of youth, especially children and young adolescents. Prevention efforts that dilute the influence of delinquent peers across the entire span of adolescence and into early adulthood are also needed. 24 figures, 23 tables, and 51 references

Date Published: March 1, 2006