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:
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:
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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
TRANSITIONS INTO ADULTHOOD AND SUCCESS
Menard employed an index of adult success with the following four criteria:
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.