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Violent Victimization and Involvement in Delinquency: Examining Predictions From General Strain Theory

NCJ Number
Journal of Criminal Justice Volume: 34 Issue: 3 Dated: May/June 2006 Pages: 261-274
Carter Hay; Michelle M. Evans
Date Published
May 2006
14 pages
Based on the principles of Agnew's general strain theory (GST), which holds that delinquent behavior is linked to stressful circumstances in the juvenile's life, this study examined the stressful effects of being violently victimized on later delinquency.
The study found that, consistent with GST, being a victim of violence significantly increased a youth's subsequent delinquency. A second finding was that the effects of such victimization on delinquency were at least partially mediated by the youth's feelings of anger. Victimization significantly increased the youth's level of anger, which was in turn associated with significant increases in delinquency. Further, the direct effects of victimization on delinquency were reduced to insignificance in some cases when anger was controlled. A third finding was that the effects of victimization on subsequent delinquency were conditioned by the youth's level of self-control. Youth who were impulsive and low in self-control had more difficulty coping with the victimization in nondelinquent ways. The findings suggest that delinquency can be prevented by developing programs that prevent the violent victimization of children and youth in the home and at school. Treatment for existing delinquent behaviors should include a focus on self-control and anger management. Study data came from the National Survey of children, a national panel survey of American children and their families. Respondents were first interviewed in 1976 (wave 1), when the children were 7-11 years old, and then again in 1981 (wave 2), when respondents were 12-16 years old. The national sample of 1,423 cases included an overrepresentation of Blacks and children who were at risk for behavioral problems because of their family circumstances. Wave 1 data measured violent victimization of the children as well as the control variables (age, gender, race, and family income). Wave 2 data were used to measure the outcomes of anger and delinquency. 4 tables, 7 notes, and 65 references