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Social Factors Account for Shifts in Violent Crime

Differences between individuals do not explain why some generations are more violent than others

THURSDAY, July 20 (HealthDay News) -- Changing social factors such as a poor economy, increased gang participation or drug dealing may help explain why some generations are more violent than others, according to a study in the July 15 issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Anthony Fabio, M.D., of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center-Presbyterian, and colleagues assessed differences in self-reported violence between two cohorts of males from the Pittsburgh Youth Study. The youngest cohort was aged 7 to 19 years and the oldest cohort was aged 13 to 25. The investigators looked at individual-level risk factors and period effects. Individual-level data came from youth self-reports and were augmented by information from parents or teachers. The study tested for period effects by grouping time into four categories: 1987-1990, 1991-1993, 1994-1997 and 1998-2000.

The older cohort had higher levels of violence after researchers adjusted for age, individual risk factors and community-level risk factors, the report indicates. However, cohort effects became insignificant when period effects were considered.

Now researchers plan to assess what specific factors account for period effects. "Knowing these factors can help in prediction of future increases or, if the factors are modifiable, they can be addressed to prevent future increases," the authors conclude.

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