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Self-Reported Law-Violating Behavior from Adolescence to Early Adulthood in a Modern Cohort

NCJ Number
Date Published
February 2006
136 pages

Utilizing the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY97), this federally supported study provides criminal justice practitioners and policymakers with an overview of problem and law-violating behavior of juveniles and young adults.


Key findings from the longitudinal study include: (1) most law-violating behaviors initiated by juveniles were abandoned by age 18; (2) major risk factors for engaging in problem behaviors included gang membership among family members or friends, the presence of higher levels of negative school-based peer behaviors, disconnection from both school and work, and having resided in a household without both biological parents present; (3) for juveniles ages 12 to 17, after risk and protective factors were taken into account, African-Americans and Hispanics were less likely than Whites to report smoking, drinking, using marijuana, using hard drugs, running away from home, vandalism, minor theft, major theft, fraud/fencing, drug selling, or carrying a handgun; and (4) in general, females were less likely than males to initiate problem behaviors or to engage in problem behaviors with high frequency. The National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY97) is a significant national resource for the study of the development of juvenile and young adult problem behaviors. This report presents analyses of data from the first five rounds of the NLSY97. The period covered by the yearly surveys is from 1997 to 2001. The report, supported by the U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice (NIJ) provides criminal justice practitioners and policymakers with a timely description of the problem and law-violating behaviors of juveniles and young adults. The examination of problem behaviors is divided into topic areas which include lifetime prevalence, onset of problem behaviors, current prevalence, frequency of problem behaviors, career characteristics and very high frequency offending, co-occurrence of problem behaviors, transition to offending and persistence--serious offenses, and continuity between juvenile and adult offending. Figures, tables, and appendixes 1-4

Date Published: February 1, 2006