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A PERSONALITY-BASED MODEL OF ADOLESCENT VIOLENCE

I. Sutherland and J. P. Shepherd
The British Journal of Criminology
Vol. 42, No. 2 (SPRING 2002), pp. 433-441
Published by: Oxford University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23638790
Page Count: 9
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A PERSONALITY-BASED MODEL OF ADOLESCENT VIOLENCE
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Abstract

The aim of this study was to explore the relationship between adolescent violence and two personality constructs: self-esteem and lack of self-concern. Other types of delinquent behaviour such as use of alcohol and illicit drugs were also examined. It was hypothesized that adolescents who fought would have lower self-esteem and higher measures of a lack of self-concern than those who did not fight. It was also hypothesized that adolescent fighters would have a greater experience of substance use than non-fighters and that these factors would be inter-related. The survey was of 13,650 pupils (aged 11—16) in a stratified sample from 39 schools in five Local Education Authority areas in Northern England, the Midlands and London. Data were collected during the latter part of 1999. Respondents were asked, in a confidential self-report questionnaire, about their levels of self-esteem and lack of self-concern, their experiences of fighting and their alcohol and illicit drug use. 14.4 per cent of this sample said they had hit someone within the past year. More boys than girls had hit someone in the past year (χ2 = 73.446, df 1, p <.0001, O/R 1.8). 22.1 per cent of respondents had high levels of lack of self-concern. More boys than girls exhibited high levels of this trait (boys, 26.3 %; girls 18.2 per cent χ2 = 198.288, df 2, p <.0001, O/R 1.6). 2.6 per cent of the population had low self-esteem with more boys than girls having low self-esteem (boys, 2.8 per cent; girls, 2.5 per cent χ2 = 8.051, df 2, p <.01, O/R 1.1). 12.7 per cent were regular alcohol drinkers, 16.6 per cent smokers and 3.3 per cent regularly used illicit drugs. Binary logistic regression was used to develop a model that accounted for 87.2 per cent of the variance with over 96 per cent of those who fought being correctly identified. The model consisted of gender, self-esteem, lack of self-concern, cigarette smoking, illicit drug use, frequency of alcohol use and frequency of drunkenness (G = 2904.274, DF = 13, p < .0001). Lack of self-concern and low self-esteem are useful constructs in predicting adolescent violence, but cannot be considered in isolation of other behaviours. Research should be encouraged which identifies the causes of low self-esteem in adolescents.

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