Violent Offending Among Juveniles: A 7-Year Longitudinal Study of Recidivism, Desistance, and Associations With Mental Health

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Abstract

Serious and violent offending among juveniles is a consistent concern of researchers, practitioners, and policymakers, yet the development of violent offending remains poorly understood because of limited availability of relevant data, small sample sizes, and shortage of longitudinal data sets. This study analyzed developmental patterns of violent offending over 7 years in the complete population of court-referred youth in Connecticut between 2006 and 2012 (N = 58,678; mean age at first offense = 14.7 years). This unique dataset provided several key findings: First, results from a latent class growth analysis showed that violent crimes peaked at age 14–15, with high-rate adolescent offenders (3.7% of the sample) accounting for 31.9% of all violent offenses. Further, 74.2% of this group desisted from violent crimes in adulthood. Higher levels of self-reported anger/irritability slightly increased the odds of violent recidivism (odds ratio, OR = 1.09), where higher levels of depression/anxiety depressed the odds (OR = 0.89). The overrepresentation of males, non-Hispanic Black, and Hispanic youth among high-rate adolescence offenders were traceable through adolescence but not beyond the age of 18. Together, these finding may help to inform new delinquency interventions that target the needs of this proportionally small group of violent adolescent offenders accounting for a large amount of violent crimes.

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