Methods: The study was based on secondary data analysis obtained by the Georgia Department of Child and Family Services, the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice, and the US Census. The unit of study was a community: 329 zip codes in Georgia (171 of the Metropolitan areas and 158 of the non-Metropolitan areas). The community risk factors in this study were the rates of poverty, unemployment, residential mobility, single parent family, crowded dwelling, and African American (AA) population. Child abuse and neglect were used as mediating variables and juvenile crime (property and violent crime) was a dependent variable. In order to examine the paths between the community risk factors and juvenile crime through child abuse and neglect, the path analyses were performed using SAS 9.0 software program.
Results: The study showed that in the metropolitan areas of Georgia, residential mobility, single parent family, crowded dwelling, and AA population had a direct association with the juvenile crime while poverty only had an indirect association (through neglect). One of the main findings in this study was that when juvenile crime was classified into violent crime and property crime, the effects of the mediating variables (abuse and neglect) were different. In the metropolitan areas, both abuse and neglect had a mediating effect on violent crime, while in property crime neglect only mediated. Another key finding was that in the non-metropolitan areas, few of the community risk factors in the study had a direct or indirect association with the juvenile crime. Single parent family and AA population were associated with property crime through neglect. That is, the study showed that the community risk factors explained juvenile crime in the metropolitan areas significantly more than the non-metropolitan areas.
Conclusions and Implications: The major findings showed that there were different mediating functions related to the violent and property crimes and little explanation of the community risk factors in the non-metropolitan area. This study supports a connection between abuse and violent behaviors. In addition, community services which provide structural supervision for children would reduce child neglect and juvenile crime, particularly in the metropolitan areas. Since the commonly known community risk factors explained little for the non-metropolitan areas in the study, further research is needed to explore the community factors in the non-metropolitan areas.