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The Review of the Roots of Youth Violence: Reflections of a Researcher. Scot Wortley Associate Professor Centre of Criminology, University of Toronto Metropolis Priority Leader: Justice, Policing and Security. Research Tasks. Document trends and patterns in youth violence.

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the review of the roots of youth violence reflections of a researcher

The Review of the Roots of Youth Violence:Reflections of a Researcher

Scot Wortley

Associate Professor

Centre of Criminology, University of Toronto

Metropolis Priority Leader: Justice, Policing and Security

research tasks
Research Tasks
  • Document trends and patterns in youth violence.
  • Review the research literature on the “root causes” of youth violence.
  • Review the “program evaluation” literature and help identify “best practices” for combating youth violence.
  • Produce an “inventory” of “violence prevention” programs funded by the Ontario government.
  • Observe community consultations and consultations with “youth experts.”
disturbing trends
Disturbing Trends
  • Although official rates of violent crime are low by international standards, Canadian surveys suggest that most young people will experience some form of violent victimization.
  • Most violent victimization incidents are never reported to parents, police or other adult authority figures.
  • Recent data suggests that the “reporting rate” for violent victimization has decreased over the past decade (no snitching).
  • Violent crime is becoming more concentrated among young people (under 30 years of age).
  • Violent victimization is increasingly concentrated among young, minority males from disadvantaged communities.
disturbing trends1
Disturbing Trends
  • Violent crime more likely to take place in public spaces.
  • Violence more likely to involve firearms.
  • Apparent increase in gang activity.
  • Increased media coverage of serious crime.
  • Increased fear of crime.
  • Increasing economic polarization in major urban centres.
  • The most economically disadvantaged communities are highly racialized.
what causes youth violence
What Causes Youth Violence?
  • Biological theories
  • Psychological theories
  • Child Development theories
  • Rational Choice
  • Economic/Strain theories
  • Opportunity theories
  • Social Learning theories
  • Sub-cultural theories
  • Control/Self-control theories
  • Conflict perspectives
risk factors
  • Neurological problems/learning disabilities
  • Early childhood development issues (abuse, neglect, etc.)
  • Poor parenting/parental supervision
  • Mental health issues
  • Low self-control (need for immediate gratification, etc.)
  • Absolute deprivation
  • Relative deprivation
  • Anger/Frustration/Alienation/Hopelessness
  • Deviant peers (exposure to pro-crime values)
  • Violent media (exposure to pro-crime values)
  • Criminal opportunities (lack of legitimate opportunities)
  • Labeling (stigmatization, etc.)
diverse pathways to youth violence
Diverse Pathways to Youth Violence
  • Early Onset/Lifetime Persistent
  • Late Onset/Adolescent Limited
  • Late Onset/Adult Persistent
  • Do different types of youth require different types of programming?
the roots report immediate risk factors
THE ROOTS REPORT:Immediate Risk Factors
  • Impulsivity
  • Low self-esteem
  • Lack of empathy
  • Alienation
  • Perceptions of injustice (external attributions of blame)
  • Hopelessness
  • Lack of Voice
the roots
The “Roots”
  • Poverty
  • Community design
  • Educational issues
  • Family Issues
  • Racism
  • Health and Mental Health issues
  • Lack of economic opportunity
  • Issues in the criminal justice system
shopping for programs
Shopping for Programs
  • Suppression/Enforcement strategies
  • Surveillance strategies
  • Early childhood development programs
  • Parent training programs
  • Adult mentoring programs
  • Youth (peer) mentoring Programs
  • Anti-violence training/education
  • Educational enhancement programs
  • Youth employment/career development programs
  • Youth engagement programs – sports, arts, culture and other recreation strategies.
evaluation research
Evaluation Research
  • Low quality evaluation (post-test testimonials).
  • Medium quality evaluation (pre-test/post-test design).
  • High Quality Evaluation (pre-test/post test/control group).
  • The quality of the evaluation also depends on a number of other factors including outcome measures, data collection strategies, sampling decisions, etc.
the canadian evaluation record
The Canadian Evaluation Record
  • Many programs are funded by various levels of government and private foundations.
  • Besides financial audits and “output” reports, very few programs are evaluated at all.
  • Most of the evaluations that are conducted fit into the “low quality” category.
  • It is therefore very difficult to determine whether these programs meet their stated objectives or not.
obstacles to program evaluation
Obstacles to Program Evaluation
  • Resistance/apathy from Funding agencies
  • Resistance/apathy program program administrators and staff.
  • Competition for limited financial resources.
  • Lack of research funds.
  • Problems of researcher access.
  • Lack of research expertise.
  • Lack of public support for research.
  • Is Canada “anti-research”?
some promising results from the international literature
Some Promising Results(from the International Literature)
  • Intensive, long-term, multi-dimensional programs are more effective than short-term, one-dimensional programs.
  • Programs that involve the family (parents, siblings, etc.) and the community (including pro-social peers) are more effective than programs that target youth in isolation.
  • Programs must target the needs of specific youth. One size does not fit all.
  • The delivery of youth services must be coordinated.
key recommendations
Key Recommendations
  • Governance and Coordination
  • A “place-based” approach
  • The development of community hubs
  • Anti-poverty strategy
  • Anti-racism strategy (including the collection of race-based statistics)
  • A mental health strategy
  • Evaluation (as accountability)
  • Systemic review of the implementation of the Review’s recommendation
a final note on evaluation
A Final Note on Evaluation
  • In order to develop “best practices,” evaluation needs to become a standard part of program design, implementation and development.
  • Programs should be given the opportunity to evolve through evaluation. A “poor” evaluation should not “doom” a program or an organization.