OVC ArchiveOVC
This file is provided for reference purposes only. It was current when produced, but is no longer maintained and may now be outdated. Please select www.ovc.gov to access current information.

horizontal line break

Chapter 3 Specific Justice Systems and Victims' Rights (Section 1 Supplement)

Juvenile Justice

Statistical Overview

  • Juveniles are twice as likely as adults to be victims of violent crime: one in eighteen violent crime victims is under the age of twelve. In the majority of cases, the perpetrator is a family member or an acquaintance rather than a stranger (Osofsky 2001).

  • Almost 70% of teenage females in the juvenile justice system have histories of physical abuse compared to approximately 20% of teenage females in the general population (Lederman and Brown 2000).

  • More than 70% of females in the juvenile justice systems report sexual abuse and assault compared with 32% of males (Ibid.).

  • Increasingly, juveniles are committing acts of domestic violence against parents and siblings. Data from calls to a 24-hour hotline for the Violence Intervention Program in New Orleans, Louisiana, reported that of the 300 calls received in 1999, more than half were from parents concerned about violent behavior by their 13- to 17-year-old children (Osofsky 2000).

Long Term Consequences of Adolescent Victimization

(This section summarizes "Short- and Long-term Consequences of Adolescent Victimization" written by Scott Menard with support from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)

Among researchers and policymakers in juvenile justice, considerable thought has been given to understanding the short- and long-term affects of adolescent victimization, particularly in the areas of re-victimization, substance use and abuse, and mental health problems. In a research project supported by the Office for Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Menard (2002) has analyzed data from the National Youth Survey to further understand the relationship between victimization of adolescents and the likelihood of certain negative outcomes in adulthood. Also included in the study is information about adolescent victims who are or become perpetrators. The research examined the multiple effects of victimization by asking four questions:

  1. What are the immediate effects on the victim in terms of physical injuries and financial losses?

  2. How does the victimization relate to voluntary problem behaviors such as illicit drug use, perpetration of violent and property crimes, and perpetration of domestic violence . . . and involuntary concerns such as mental health problems, further victimization, and, in particular, domestic violence victimization?

  3. Does the adolescent victimization relate to problems in adulthood regardless of whether the same problems were already present?

  4. How does adolescent victimization affect adulthood as measured by indexes of success?

The National Youth Survey (NYS) Sample, from which the data has been retrieved, is a longitudinal study involving nine cycles of interviews of Americans who were between the ages of eleven and seventeen in 1976 when the survey began and twenty-seven and thirty-three in 1992 when the survey ended. Of the 2,360 eligible youths contacted, 1,725 agreed to participate. Percentages of participation declined over the nine cycles from the 94% who completed the first two cycles to the 78% who completed the ninth cycle sixteen years later.

Menard's analysis of the NYS sample looks at the consequences of both violent and property victimization and measures the prevalence and frequency of problem outcomes that include:

  • Committing felony assault, felony theft, and/or serious domestic violence offenses.

  • Revictimization and serious domestic violence victimization.

  • Use of marijuana and polydrugs and problem drug use.

  • Onset of mental health problems.

In terms of risk factors for short-term outcomes in adolescence after a victimization, the analysis demonstrates that the experience of both violent and property victimization significantly correlates with other problems:

  • Most illegal behaviors, including commission of violent crimes and mental health problems, reported by the respondents correlated with violent victimization, while polydrug and problem drug use correlated with property victimization.

In looking at respondents' adult behavior following adolescent victimization, Menard finds that victims of violence in adolescence tend to be victims of violence as adults.

  • The odds of adult violent victimization are more than twice as high for the survey respondents who were victims of violence in adolescence as those who were not. The odds are the highest for the youngest age group sampled and the lowest for the oldest age group sampled.

  • The odds of being a victim of domestic violence as an adult are increased by a factor of 1.7 by being an adolescent victim of a violent crime and by a factor of 1.5 by being a perpetrator of a violent crime.

At the same time, the odds of being a perpetrator of domestic violence as an adult are increased by a factor of 1.7 by being a victim of a violent crime in adolescence, and are doubled by being a perpetrator of violent crime in adolescence.

  • The odds of being both a perpetrator and a victim of domestic violence as an adult more than double by being the victim of a violent crime in adolescence and more than triple by being a perpetrator of violence in adolescence.

Furthermore, Menard looks at the risk factors for adult violent offending and found that being both a victim and a perpetrator of violent crime as an adolescent increases the odds of perpetrating a violent crime in adulthood by a factor of thirteen. The risk factor for property offending in adulthood among adolescent victims of violent crime offenders nearly triples.

In the analysis of the NYS interviews, it appears that the correlation of drug use and victimization is straightforward. Marijuana use and property victimization during adolescence are the risk factors for adult marijuana use. Marijuana use and polydrug use in adolescence are the risk factors for problem drug use as adults. Violent victimization in adolescence does not appear to affect simple use of illicit drugs in adulthood; however, it doubles the odds of problem use of drugs in adulthood.

Additionally, adult respondents in the NYS sample who suffered a violent victimization in their adolescence are twice as likely as others to report ever having had symptoms of PTSD. However, there was no indication of recent PTSD related to the victimization reported in the interviews nor were there indications of related adult anxiety or depression. On the other hand, adolescent mental health problems in general, as assessed by sample respondents and their parents, triple the odds of adult anxiety, double the odds of adult PTSD, and somewhat increase the odds for depression.

Menard summarizes the risk factors for problematic consequences to adolescent victimization among the respondents with the following comparison:

  • No more than 25 percent of nonvictims can expect to have any of the adult problem outcomes listed in the study, with the highest risk being adult violent crime victimization and domestic violence victimization, and the lowest being PTSD and commission of felony assaults and felony thefts.

  • The risk factor for each adolescent victim of violent crime is 10 percent for each adult problem outcome listed, more than 40 percent for violent victimization, and 25 percent for problem drug use and domestic violence victimization and perpetration.

In summary, adolescent victims of violent crime as adults, when compared to nonvictims, are 50 percent more likely to be victims of violent crime and domestic violence, perpetrators of domestic violence, and problem drug users; twice as likely to experience PTSD; 2.5 times more likely to be property offenders; and three times more likely to be serious violent offenders.

Given the considerable risk factors for illegal behavior, problem drug use, revictimization, and mental health problems, it should come as no surprise that predictors of success for many adolescents who are victims of violent and property crime have the odds for success in life stacked against them.


Menard employed an index of adult success with the following four criteria:

  1. Employment or financial stability.

  2. Conventional aspirations and beliefs. (Understanding right and wrong.)

  3. Involvement in a support network of family and friends.

  4. Abstinence from serous criminal behavior and problem substance abuse.

From the information drawn from the NYS samples, Menard found that violent victimization during adolescence predicts nonsuccess in adulthood at a marginally significant level. In addition, of the illegal adolescent behaviors and outcomes measured among the victims surveyed, felony assault and marijuana use were the most significant problems associated with higher odds of nonsuccess. He concludes that nonsuccess as an adult is more likely for individuals who as adolescents were frequent victims of violence, perpetrators of violent offenses, and marijuana users.

Furthermore, the frequent violent victimization of adolescents is also a risk factor for failure to make a successful transition from adolescence to adulthood. Failure to make the transition is perhaps the sum total of the effects of the problem outcomes associated with adolescent victimization. When viewed in combination—the directs costs of victimization physically and financially and the onset of short- and long-term problem outcomes, the need for broader intervention among victimized adolescents is clear. That adolescent victims of violent crime without intervention are at significant risk of revictimization, of becoming perpetrators and substance abusers, and, literally, of losing their opportunity for an equitable entry into adult life with the same prospects as nonvictims for success and well-being should remain foremost in the minds of practitioners at every stage of the criminal justice process.

Previous Contents Next

Chapter 1 Scope of Crime
Historical Review of the Victims' Rights Discipline
June 2002
Archive iconThe information on this page is archived and provided for reference purposes only.