and Neglected Children: The number of abused or neglected
children more than doubled from 1986 to 1998, from 1.4 million
to more than 3 million. According to the Center on Addiction and Substance
Abuse at Columbia University, the increase is due in part to substance
abusing parents. The study also found that children of
substance abusers are three times more likely to be abused and that
substance abuse causes or worsens seven out of 10 cases of child abuse or
neglect. It is estimated that substance abuse among parents costs the
nation $20 billion annually.
Prisoners: Prisoners are spending more time behind bars as states enact laws to narrow the gap between sentences handed down and time actually served, as reported by the Justice Department. Violent offenders released in 1997 spent an average of 49 months in prison, up from 43 months in 1993. On average, those freed in 1997 had served 54 percent of their sentences, while in 1993, they had served an average of 47 percent.
Youthful Offenders: In 1996, youth under age 15 were involved in 32 percent of all juvenile arrests and 9 percent of juvenile arrests involved youth under age 13, according to The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP). Of all the arrests of youths under age 15, 30 percent were for larceny-theft or vandalism; 13 percent were for assaultive behaviors; 9 percent were for running away; 6 percent were for drag- or alcohol-related offenses; and 6 percent were for curfew violations.
Since peaking in 1994, the violent crime arrest rate for youth under 15 has declined, while the violent crime arrest rate for youth over age 15 remained relatively stable from 1983 through 1987 and increased sharply between 1988 and 1994. For both groups, the violent arrest crime rate declined between 1994 and 1996.
According to the FBI, the number of arrests for youth 12 and younger, in 1996, was 250,000. For youth age 13 and 14, the number was 671,900; and youth age 15 and older accounted for 1,929,800 arrests. Between 1986 and 1995, the number of cases referred to juvenile court increased 57 percent for youth under age 15 and 39 percent for youth age 15 and older.
Moreover, in this same period person offense cases handled by juvenile courts increased 129 percent for youth under age 15 and 81 percent for youth 15 and older. During the same period, drug offense cases processed increased 136 percent for youth under 15 and 117 percent for youth over age 15.
Guns and Children: Forty-three percent of American households with children have guns, according to a survey released recently by the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence. Among the gun owners, 28 percent said they keep the guns hidden. Twenty-three percent said that at least one of the guns in the home is loaded at all times.
Guns and Teen Homicides: Although homicide rates generally have fallen, recent studies reveal that the increase in homicides by juveniles in the late 1980s was attributed to crimes committed with handguns, not to change in the nature of youth. While the rate of killings by juveniles tripled from 1986 to 1993 and has fallen since, the rate of homicides by juveniles with other weapons has not changed.
The new research on juvenile violence also suggests that much of the increase in arrests of juveniles in aggravated assaults in the late 1980s was not because teen-agers were more violent, but because of increased police activity, as officers arrested young people in altercations that would have been ignored earlier.
Teen Birth Rates: Teen birth rates, which have fallen steadily for six years, are falling most sharply among teens who already have at least one child, reports the National Center for Health Statistics. Second births among girls ages 15 to 19 dropped 21 percent and first births dropped six percent between 1991 and 1997. It is speculated that the substantial drop in second-time teen births reflects better contraceptive use, according to the researchers.
School Violence: During 1996-1997, 10 percent of public schools reported at least one serious violent crime to the police, and 47 percent reported a less serious, violent or nonviolent crime, according to a survey conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics. High schools reported one serious violent crime per 1,000 students and 17 less serious violent or nonviolent crimes per 1,000 students in 1996-1997.
Between 1992 and 1994, 76 students were murdered or committed suicide at school, while 7,357 school-aged children were murdered and 4,366 committed suicide away from school.
During 1993-1994, 12 percent of elementary and secondary school teachers were threatened with injury by a student and four percent were physically attacked. For the period from 1992 to 1996, the rate of crime victimization was 32 incidents per 1,000 teachers at the high school level and 59 incidents per 1,000 teachers at the middle school level.
College Smoking: Smoking rose by 28 percent on college campuses between 1993 and 1997, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association by the Harvard School of Public Health. Smoking increased at 99 of 116 colleges surveyed. The study is based on responses from 14,521 college students surveyed in 1997 and 15,103 in 1993.
The survey indicates that whites smoked more than blacks and Asians; college seniors smoked more than underclassmen; but students at more competitive schools smoked less than students at less competitive schools. Students in the West had the lowest rates of smoking.
Combating Youth Gangs: Three new studies supported by OJJDP dispel some commonly held myths about young people and gangs. The studies reveal that young people can resist peer pressure to join gangs, that young people who join gangs seeking safety are often in far greater danger for doing so, and that many gang members would be willing to stop selling drugs if they could find steady work.
Comparing the Criminal Behavior of Youth Gangs and At-Risk Youth examines criminal behavior of gangs and other at-risk youth in four urban and suburban communities. In Gang Membership, Delinquent Peers and Delinquent Behavior and Gang Members on the Move, studies report that gang members were significantly more likely to engage in criminal behavior than youth who were not in gangs, but associated with delinquent youth, but that the level of such activity decreased once the youth left the gang.
The report also examines the increasing spread of youth gangs and their migration and expansion patterns, but this had a minimal effect on increasing the number of gangs. Researchers concluded that the expansion of gangs comes more from the proliferation by local gangs than by outsiders moving into communities.
Teenager Employment: A national panel of experts issued a warning recently about the hazards of teenage employment, saying that young people who work more than 20 hours a week, regardless of economic background, are less likely to finish high school and more likely to use drugs, and run into trouble with the police.
According to the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine, the research indicates that young people are injured at work at twice the rate of adults, and 100,000 show up in hospital emergency rooms each year with job-related injuries.
It is estimated that eight of every 10 American teenagers holds a job sometime during their school years, especially in minimum wage jobs. Among high school seniors, it is estimated that 50 percent have jobs.
College Freshmen Survey: Contemporary college freshmen are significantly less interested in talking about politics and in keeping up with political issues than freshmen in the 1960s and 1970s, according to an annual survey conducted by UCLA. New freshmen are almost two times more likely to identify being "well off financially" as a very important objective than developing a "philosophy of life"--a reversal from findings obtained three years ago.
As far as casual sex is concerned, the freshman approval rate hovered between 45 and 50 percent between 1974 to 1986, then began to drop to 39.6 percent this year as AIDS emerged as a new threat. Today's freshmen recognize the academic and personal benefits of volunteering, which suggests they are trying to help their own communities, even if they are turned off by national politics.
Among entering freshmen last year, the survey reports, Catholic schools have the highest percentage (57.6 percent) of students who say they drank beer in the past year. Also, no more than 20 percent of the students checked a book out of the library last year. Those attending black institutions were most likely to have both attended a religious service and been late to class last year.
State of Family Health: In a survey of nearly 45,000 families by the Urban Institute, researchers point out that how Americans live depends on where they live. Also, most American families have supportive home environments, but too many children are poor and too many adults lack health insurance. However, the survey also reveals that the number of Americans without health insurance is about 12 percent smaller than current government estimates. The survey shows about 36 million nonelderly Americans were uninsured in 1997, not 41 million as previously reported.
The researchers also note that poverty affects children more than adults, for 20 percent of children are below the poverty line ($16,400 for a family of four) compared with 12 percent of adults. Further, one-third of American children live in families that have trouble affording food, and one-sixth of parents have trouble paying for housing.
Juvenile Vandalism: In 1996, according to the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR), law enforcement agencies made an estimated 141,600 arrests of persons under age 18 for vandalism. These juvenile arrests represented 44 percent of all arrests for vandalism. Males (89 percent) and youth younger than 16 (63 percent) accounted for the majority of arrests. The juvenile vandalism arrest rate (per 100,000 persons ages 10 through 17) remained virtually level between 1980 and 1988 (398 and 391 respectively) and increased to a high of 497 in 1994. By 1996, the juvenile vandalism arrest rate had declined to 455.
Young Females and Crime: According to the FBI, the number of under-18 females arrested rose 59.8 percent from 1988 to 1997, while the number of boys rose 27.9 percent. Girls are also using drugs earlier and more often. The percentage of 10- to 14-year-old girls who have tried alcohol and marijuana is increasing faster than the rate for boys, reports Drug Strategies. While girls are narrowing the gap on arrests, boys are still far ahead: 1.27 million to 455,000 in 1997. Among 28 juvenile crime categories tabulated by the FBI for 1997, boys led in all but two categories: prostitution and runaways.
Teenager Deaths: Of the 37,000 (out of 34 million at-risk) youths who die each year, 30 percent are killed in car crashes, almost half of them linked to alcohol. Roughly 10,000 are murdered, commit suicide, or die of complications of AIDS, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Half of the 40,000 new HIV infections that occur each year involve people younger than 25, states the CDC.
The most recent CDC Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey found that boys were more likely than girls to acknowledge that they have never worn a seat belt; fight, carry weapons, and use illicit drugs or smokeless tobacco; drink in binges; and have sex with four or more partners. Girls are more likely to flirt with suicide; suffer from distortions of body image; and experiment with weight loss programs. Together, teens account for more than 1 million unintended pregnancies and 3 million cases of sexually transmitted diseases each year.
Reading Scores: The nation's fourth, eighth, and 12th graders showed improvement in their reading skills since 1994, reported the U.S. Department of Education. The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is a set of Congressionally mandated tests that measure performance in reading, math, science, and art and reflect a sample of 31,000 public and private school students.
The average reading score for fourth-graders increased from 214 in 1994 to 217; scores for eighth-graders rose four points to 264; and 12th-graders' scores rose four points to 291. NAEP scales range from zero to 500. Twelfth-graders also increased their scores at the basic, proficient, and advanced levels.
* Editor's note: Please send information about new resources, developments and programs in juvenile justice and delinquency to Alvin W. Cohn, President, Administration of Justice Services, Inc., 15005 Westbury Road, Rockville, MD 20853.
By S-Alvin W. Cohn, D. CRIM., President, Administration of Justice Services, Inc., Rockville, Maryland
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