Juvenile Justice Bulletin Banner 2003
   J. Robert Flores, Administrator
May 2003  
Community Correlates of Rural Youth Violence

D. Wayne Osgood and Jeff M. Chambers


Social Disorganization and Rural Communities




Directions for Future Research

For Further Information



Related OJJDP Publications

NCJ 193591

This Bulletin was prepared under grant number 94–JN–CX–0005 from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, U.S. Department of Justice.

Points of view or opinions expressed in this document are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of OJJDP or the U.S. Department of Justice.

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention is a component of the Office of Justice Programs, which also includes the Bureau of Justice Assistance, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, and the Office for Victims of Crime.


A Message From OJJDP

Although decades of research have shed considerable light on the nature of the causes and correlates of juvenile delinquency, for the most part these studies have focused on youth crime in large metropolitan settings and generally overlooked delinquency in rural towns and smaller cities.

Since only half the U.S. population (49 percent) lives in urban areas of 500,000 or more, while a quarter (25 percent) lives in rural areas of 2,500 or fewer and 1 in 10 (12 percent) lives in towns or cities of 2,500 to 50,000, this leaves a considerable gap in research coverage, with virtually as many excluded as included.

This Bulletin addresses the lack of knowledge of rural youth violence by applying social disorganization theory to community correlates of youth violence in nonmetropolitan communities in Florida, Georgia, Nebraska, and South Carolina.

According to this theory, rates of youth violence are considerably higher in communities that have large percentages of children living in single-parent households, a high rate of population turnover, and significant ethnic diversity—whether in rural or urban settings. Of course, these are but a few of the myraid of variables that may enter into the equation.

The findings on youth violence in nonmetropolitan communities reported in these pages will help guide program development and future research to better serve rural youth and their families.



D. Wayne Osgood, Ph.D., is Professor in the Crime, Law, and Justice Program of Pennsylvania State University's Department of Sociology. Jeff M. Chambers, M.A., is Research Manager in the Center on Children, Families, and the Law at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

This Bulletin is an abbreviated version of an article that appeared in the February 2000 issue of the journal Criminology (Osgood and Chambers, 2000). The authors thank Gary Melton, Director of the Institute for Families and Neighborhood Life at Clemson University, and Susan Limber, Director of the Center for Youth Participation and Human Rights at Clemson University, for their support of this project as Principal Investigator and Project Director, respectively, of the larger grant of which this study was a part. Mike Overton of the Nebraska Commission on Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice, Dave Pfiefer of the Center for Public Affairs Research at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, Mary Sik of the Georgia Division of Demographic and Statistical Services, Mike Macfarlane of the South Carolina Division of Research and Statistical Services, and Steven Kimble of the Florida State Data Center assisted the authors in obtaining arrest data.


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