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Life Fast, Die Young: Anticipated Early Death And Adolescent Violence And Gang Involvement

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Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2014, $25,869)

Strategies employed by criminal justice agencies to reduce violence and gang activity often emphasize deterrence from criminal behavior. These policies rely on rational-choice logic that the threat of harsh punishment discourages individuals from criminal behavior. However, such strategies will likely fail if individuals do not fear these consequences. This may occur when one feels s/he has nothing to lose and/or no future to anticipate. Many youths embody this "live fast, die young" mentality, particularly those already at risk of delinquency due to other risk factors. The scientific literature refers to this mindset as fatalism, hopelessness, or anticipated early death (AED). Numerous qualitative studies indicate that many delinquent adolescents possess fatalistic attitudes, and such beliefs are significantly related to outcomes such as drug use, HIV/AIDS diagnosis, and offending. Despite the indication that AED is a crucial correlate of delinquent activity, only recently have criminologists begun to directly examine this concept. To address this gap in the literature, the Principal Investigator will analyze two longitudinal secondary datasets. One dataset, the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health), provides a nationally representative sample. The Rochester Youth Development Study (RYDS) is a sample of at-risk youth in Rochester, New York. Factor analysis will quantify adolescent AED in each dataset. The factor variable measuring AED will then serve as an independent variable to determine its effect on adolescent violence and gang activity (i.e., gang involvement, leadership, duration, stability). The use of two datasets bolsters the validity of the latent variable's measurement. Furthermore, direct measure of AED in Add Health can be compared to the factor variable to assess reliability. The project objectives are to operationalize AED so researchers can apply it to existing social science datasets, and to evaluate the effects of AED on violence and gang activity. The study will produce findings that practitioners can use to create an instrument to assess AED. Several studies have recommended that practitioners should begin screening for AED in children because of its link to negative outcomes. The dissertation is organized thusly: First, a review of the AED literature summarizes findings of scholars in criminology and other disciplines (e.g., medicine, psychology). Next, the project is placed within a rational choice/deterrence theory framework. Data descriptions follow. AED is operationalized using factor analysis, then placed within multivariate fixed and random effects models employing OLS, logistic, and Poisson and/or negative binomial regression to predict violence and gang activity. ca/ncf

Date Created: September 14, 2014