Crossover youth, those who have experienced maltreatment and committed juvenile offenses, are more likely to reoffend than other juvenile offenders. However, among crossover youth, little is known about individual characteristics associated with reoffending. This study examined the impact of violence exposure, as a victim or a witness, on beliefs in using violence for conflict resolution and the impact of these on recidivism among crossover youth. It was hypothesized that youth who experienced and witnessed violence would hold positive beliefs regarding the use of aggression and consequently, have high rates of recidivism.
The study sample consisted of 87 crossover youth from two counties in South Florida. The youth were identified by cross checking 2013 administrative service records from both the child welfare and the juvenile justice systems. The sample was majority male (49%) and racially identified as African-American (70%), Hispanic (22%), and White (8%). Data was collected from administrative service records and the Department of Juvenile Justice’s reoffending risk assessment. The risk assessment screened for victimization and violence exposure; it also asked questions about personal beliefs towards using physical aggression to resolve conflicts.
Cox regression was used to model the time to the new offense. For individuals with new offenses, the time variable was calculated by computing the date difference between the first and second offenses. For youth with no new offenses, the time variable was calculated by computing the date difference between the first offense and their 18th birthday or the last date of data collection, whichever was earlier.
Among the sample, first offense categories included violent crimes (63%), property crimes (69%), and other crimes (6%). Youth reported experiencing violence victimization at home (18%), in foster/group homes (1%), by a family member (10%), and by a non-family member (6%). No youth reported being attacked with a weapon. Violence was witnessed at home (29%), in a foster/group home (2%), and in the community (30%). One percent reported witnessing the killing of a family member due to violence. In all, 40% believed that physical aggression was sometimes or often appropriate.
Upon completion of data collection in 2016, 77 (89%) youth in the sample had reoffended. The average period between first and second offenses was 375 days. Bivariate analyses showed that being a victim of violence at home was negatively associated with individual beliefs in using violence for conflict resolution. Witnessing community violence was positively associated with such beliefs. The cox regression showed that violent offense commission (Exp (β)=1.90) and beliefs in using violence for conflict resolution (Exp (β)=2.14) were positively associated with reoffending.
Conclusion and Implications:
Understanding factors that influence recidivism among crossover youth can inform intervention and prevention efforts. This study suggests that committing a violent first offense and maintaining beliefs that violence is appropriate, increases the likelihood of recidivism among crossover youth. Results support previous findings that welfare involved youth who commit violent first offenses are more likely to reoffend. They also support the need for interventions that target attitudes and beliefs related to aggression.