Friday, April 22, 2011

Peer Violence Perpetration among Urban Youth

Joanna Almeida, Associate Research Scientist at Northeastern's Institute of Urban Health Research, spoke at the State Library's Friends of the Library program earlier this month about findings from a survey that dispelled the myth of the violent immigrant. The results were based on an anonymous biannual survey of Boston high school students administered January - April, 2008 in homeroom classes. 1,348 9th - 12th graders took part in the questionnaire.

Topics included health behaviors, mental health and emphasized multiple types of violence. The students were asked if they had pushed, punched or kicked another student in the last 30 days. They were also asked whether they had lied or spread rumors about a peer.

The survey concluded that recently arrived immigrant youth are less likely to perpetrate physical peer violence than U.S.-born peers. Another finding was that non-physical, verbal violence toward peers does not vary by whether the student was first, second, or third generation or the amount of time in the U.S. A significant conclusion was that the protective effect of being foreign-born and less violent disappeared after 5 years in this country. In other words, it takes 5 years to assimilate and become prone to being violent as American-born youth.

The survey's report was co-authored by Renee M. Johnson, Mariah McNamara, Jhumka Gupta and was done with the cooperation of the City of Boston and Boston Youth Survey.

Statistics from previous studies led to these conclusions:
  • Violent crime decreased during historic waves of immigration to this country. (FBI statistics)
  • Foreign-born youth had half the likelihood of violence compared to those born in the U.S. (Sampson, et al., 2005)
  • A national study found children of immigrants are more apt to be involved in 3+ violent acts than immigrant youth. (Harris, 1999)

  • Latino men born in the U.S. are 7 times more likely to be incarcerated than their counterparts born abroad. (2000 US census)
Naomi Allen
Assistant Documents Librarian