The Relationship Between Drugs and Violence Among Detained Youth

Charles E. Freeman, University of Delaware
Lana D. Harrison, University of Delaware

This paper explores the relationship between alcohol and other drugs and violence among a samp;le of 200 detained youth in the greater Philadelphia area. Youth between the ages of 14 and 17 were recruited from a random sample of juvenile detention centers in the Philadelphia area. Half the sample was male and half female. Using a structured questionnaire, youth were asked about their participation in up to 3 violent incidents in the past year--either as the perpetrator or as the victim. They were questioned about how drug use and/or drug dealing were related to the violent incident. Youth were also questioned about the involvement of weapons in the violent incidents. Using Goldstein's tripartite framework, the analyses suggest that pyschopharmacological violence is the most prominent type of drug related violence among this subpopulation of youth. Although about a quarter of the sample (primarily males) reported they were involved in drug selling, and they frequently armed themselves with weapons when conducting drug business, coparatively little violence was reported while selling drugs. Few reported ever using a weapon while conducting drug business. Based on the youth's self-report, marijuana was the drug most likely to be involved in violent incidents, but it was also the drug that was most frequently used by youth. The relationship between marijuana and violence, as well as between other specific drugs and violence, will be further explored using logistic regression analyses. Analyses will also focus on gender differences.

(Return to Program Resources)

Updated 05/20/2006