Published online by Cambridge University Press: 11 July 2009
youth violence has emerged as one of the most challenging social problems in contemporary American society. The increased prevalence of violence by youthful offenders over the last three decades has been referred to as an “epidemic” by some authors (see Cook and Laub 1998) and has generated a wide array of public policy interventions (e.g., increases in adult certifications, gang abatement programs, sentencing enhancements for crimes committed with firearms or in school zones). Past empirical research has focused on describing trends in youth homicide over time and particular differences in patterns within subgroups (e.g., male vs. female, White vs. non-White youth). Unfortunately, limitations of the analytic procedures used have often prevented previous research from isolating the particular nature of change and stability in the basic structure of youth homicide situations over time and their unique characteristics when compared to homicides by adult offenders.
Using the Supplementary Homicide Reports (SHR) from 1976 to 1998 and narrative accounts of homicide situations, in this chapter we examine the nature of change and stability in the structure of youth homicide over time. The structure of youth homicide is defined by basic combinations of offender, victim, and offense attributes that underlie homicide situations. Through the method of qualitative comparative analysis (QCA), unique and common structures of youth homicide situations are empirically identified. The specific nature of these changes in youth homicide over time and their differences from adult homicides are then discussed in terms of their implications for future research and public policy on youth violence.