Youth Violence and the End of Adolescence
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American youth experience high levels of violence, and increasingly the U.S. public policy response is to punish young perpetrators of violence through waivers and transfers from juvenile to adult courts. Adolescence is a time of expanding vulnerabilities and exposures to violence that can be self-destructive as well as destructive of others. Such violence can involve intimate relationships or strangers, and in addition to being perpetrators or victims, youth are often bystanders and witnesses to violence. The authors hypothesize that the life-course consequences of experiences with violence, especially violence in intimate adolescent relationships, include more than contemporaneous health risks, leading also to subsequent depression and premature exits from adolescence to adulthood. An analysis of panel data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health indicates that violence in intimate adolescent relationships results in depressed feeelings, running away from home, serious thoughts about suicide, dropping out of school, and teenage pregnancy. Among adolescent females, violence in intimate relationships is especially likely to lead to depression, and exposure to violence on the street combines with violence by intimate partners to result in especially high risks of pregnancy. Future work should consider how exposure to violence and premature exits to adulthood negatively affect adult life outcomes.
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