In 2014, violent crime victimization among adolescents reached an all-time low, with the rate declining to one-sixth of what it was in the mid 1990s.
Adolescents are the victims of violent crime (including simple and aggravated assault, rape and other sexual assault, and robbery) at much higher rates than are adults. Violence during adolescence can have serious repercussions. Adolescents who have been violently victimized are more likely to have physical health problems, substance abuse problems, and problems at school. Sexual assault and physical assault victimization are also associated with higher rates of mental health problems during adolescence, including thoughts of suicide, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Additionally, adolescents who are the victims of violent crime may be more likely to commit violent criminal offenses themselves.
Violent victimization during adolescence also predicts problem behaviors in adulthood. For example, teenage victims of violent crime are more likely than other teens to be perpetrators or victims of violence as adults and to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder as adults.
By 2014, the rate of violent victimization (which includes rape, robbery, aggravated and simple assaults) for adolescents ages 12 to 20 had fallen to a sixth of what it was from the mid 1990s, from a high of 181 victimizations per 1,000 population, to 27 victimizations per 1,000. There were major reductions in most types of violent crime, including simple assault, aggravated assault, and robbery, during this period. For example, between 1994 and 2014 rates of aggravated assault victimization fell from 38.4 to 4.3 per 1,000 adolescents ages 12 to 20.[i] (Figure 1)
Differences by Type of Victimization
Most adolescent victims of violent crime are victims of simple assault. In 2014, simple assault accounted for 77 percent of all violent crime victimization for adolescents ages 12 to 14, 63 percent of violent crime victimization for adolescents ages 15 to 17, and 55 percent for adolescents ages 18 to 20 years. Aggravated assault is the next most common, followed by robbery and rape/sexual assault. (Figure 2)
Differences by Age
In 2012-2014, adolescents ages 12 to 14 were more likely than their older peers to be victims of any violent crime (52 per 1,000, compared with 35 per 1,000 among adolescents ages 15 to 17, and 34 per 1,000 among adolescents ages 18 to 20). They were also more likely to be victims of simple assault. Adolescents ages 18 to 20 were more likely than their younger peers to experience rape or sexual assault (three per 1,000, compared with one per 1,000 among youth ages 12 to 14 and 15 to 17, respectively). (Appendix 2)
Differences by Gender
In 2012-2014, among youth ages 12 to 14, males were more likely to experience any kind of violent crime than their female peers, aside from sexual assault: overall the male victimization rate was 66 per 1,000, compared with 39 per thousand among females of that age. Differences were particularly stark for rates of aggravated assault and robbery (at eight and six per 1,000, respectively among boys, compared with three and two per 1,000, respectively, among girls. (Appendix 2)
Among youth ages 15 to 17, males were more than twice as likely to be the victims of aggravated assault or robbery, but they were less likely than their female peers to be the victims of simple assault or rape. Among young adults ages 18 to 20, males more than three times as likely to be the victims of robbery (six versus two per 1,000), but females were much more likely to be the victims of sexual assault or rape (six versus less than one per 1,000). Overall at this age, however, males and females were equally likely to be the victim of a violent crime. (Appendix 2)
Differences by Race and Hispanic Origin
In 2012-2014, white youth, ages 12 to 14 and 18 to 20, were more likely than their black and Hispanic peers to be victims of any violent crime (61 versus 38 and 42 per 1,000, respectively, at ages 12 to 14, and 38 versus 21 and 30 per 1,000, respectively, at ages 18 to 20). Hispanic youth ages 18 to 20 were also more likely than their black peers to be victims of any violent crime. Differences at both age groups were driven by differences in the rates of simple assault. Counter to the overall trends, at ages 18 to 20, black youth were more likely to be the victim of aggravated assault. (Appendix 2)
State and Local Estimates
Through its Healthy People 2020 initiative, the federal government has set a number of goals related to this indicator. For example, there are goals to reduce the annual rate of physical assault in the general population from 16.3 per 1000 in 2008 to 14.7 per 1000 in 2020, reduce the rate of sexual violence among the general population (in development), and to reduce physical fighting among youth in the past year from 31.5 percent in 2009 to 28 percent in 2020.
More details are available here.
What Works to Make Progress on This Indicator
The Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence identifies its “Blueprints Model Programs,” which meet a high standard
of demonstrated effectiveness. Programs identified as “promising” meet a slightly less rigorous standard.
The U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention has a “Model Program Guide,” which identifies
evidence-based prevention and intervention programs.
Also, see Child Trends’ LINKS database (“Lifecourse Interventions to Nurture Kids Successfully”), for reviews of many rigorously evaluated programs, including the following which have been shown to be effective at reducing violence among adolescents, or between parents and children:
- Parent-Child Interaction Therapy is a program designed to prevent physical child abuse among families with a history of previous physical abuse or child neglect.
- Trauma-Focused Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy is for children who are experiencing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
- Second Step is a violence prevention curriculum for elementary school-aged children.
- SafERteens targets inner city adolescents who have been involved violence or used alcohol in the last year.
- Fourth R aims to reduce dating violence among high-schoolers.
- Children’s Exposure to Violence
- Adverse Experiences
- Dating Violence
- Neighborhood Safety
- Unsafe at School
- Adolescents Who Have Ever Been Raped
- Child Maltreatment
- Teen Homicide, Suicide, and Firearm Deaths
- Young Adults in Jail or Prison
- Juvenile Detention
- Victims of Hate Speech
Rates and estimates are based on self-reported data from interviews conducted for the National Crime Victimization Survey. In most cases, crimes were reported by the teenagers themselves. If the teen was age 12 or 13, a knowledgeable adult household member may have responded for the teen.
For this indicator, violent crime includes robbery, simple assault, aggravated assault, and rape/sexual assault. Simple assault is defined as attack without a weapon resulting in either no injury, minor injury or an undetermined injury requiring less than two days of hospitalization. Aggravated assault is defined as attack or attempted attack with a weapon, regardless of whether or not an injury occurred, and attack without a weapon when serious injury results.
These estimates do not include victims of homicide.
Data for 1993-2014: U. S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. (2015). NCVS victimization analysis tool (NVAT). Online data tool. Available at: http://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=nvat.
Raw Data Source
National Crime Victimization
|All Violent Crimes||175.1||181.2||155.1||74.8||70.0||66.4||75.7||74.8||70.0||66.4||75.7||52.7||60.1||61.2||60.4||48.1||40.5||31.0|
|12-14 years||34.8||18.6||10.7||9.3||6.0||4.2||4.8||4.3||2.5 *||6.9||4.8||7.2||2.1 *||0.7*||3.5*||2.7*||5.5*||3.4|
|15-17 years||12.5||13.9||13.2||5.2||6.0||3.7||10.9||2.4 *||7.9||2.8 *||6.3||6.3||10.0||5.8*||4.0||3.5||3.3*||2.5*|
|12-14 years||4.2*||4.7||3.3||3.6 *||6.9 *||6.1 *||0.2 *||2.0*||1.6 *||2.1 *||0.8 *||1.7 *||2.9 *||2.7*||0.3*||2.1*||0.6*||0.5*|
|15-17 years||8.9||10.5||7.3||2.4 *||4.9||3.1 *||4.9 *||2.2 *||1.5 *||4.3||2.7 *||2.8 *||1.6 *||1.7*||1.7*||1.0*||1.5*||0.7*|
|18-20 years||16.5||9.5||6.0||5.8||6.8||7.2||1.0 *||3.2||3.4 *||3.5 *||2.0*||4.1 *||0.8 *||1.1*||3.5||4.7||3.6||1.2*|
|*Estimate based on 10 or fewer cases.
Source: U. S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. (2015). NCVS victimization analysis tool (NVAT). Online datatool. Available at: http://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=nvat.
Appendix 2 – Violent Crime Victimization Rates (per 1,000 population), Ages 12 to 20, by Gender, Race/Hispanic Origin, and Type of Crime: Average, 2012-2014
|All Violent Crime||Robbery||Aggravated Assault||Simple Assault||Rape/Sexual Assault|
|12 to 14 Years||52.5||3.8||5.6||41.6||1.1|
|15 to 17 Years||34.8||3.1||4.9||25.7||1.1|
|18 to 20 Years||34.0||4.2||6.1||20.5||3.2|
|*Unstable estimate with a coefficient of variation greater than 50 percent.
Source: Child trends calculations from U. S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. (2015). NCVS victimization analysis tool (NVAT). Online datatool. Available at: http://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=nvat.
[i]Although these statistics are based on self-reported victimization, it is important to note that the majority of child and youth victims of crimes are “hidden.” That is, they are not known to police, school, or medical authorities. One recent estimate is that only 13 percent of children victimized in the past year were known to police, and 46 percent were known to school, police, or medical authorities. Among the serious victimizations largely unknown by authorities were dating violence and completed and attempted rape. Certain groups of victims—boys, Hispanics, and youth with higher socio-economic status—were especially less likely to be known to authorities. See Finkelhor. D., Ormrod, R., Turner, H., and Hamby, S. (2012). Child and youth victimization known to police, school, and medical authorities. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. U.S. Department of Justice. Juvenile Justice Bulletin. Retrieved from http://www.ojjdp.gov/pubs/235394.pdf
Baum, K. (2005). Juvenile victimization and offending, 1993-2003 (NCJ 209468): U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/jvo03.pdf
Wordes, M., & Nunez, M. (2002). Our vulnerable teenagers: Their victimization, its consequences, and directions for prevention and intervention: National Council on Crime and Delinquency: 13. http://www.victimsofcrime.org/docs/Documents/teen_victim_report.pdf?sfvrsn=0
Turner, H. A., Finkelhor, D., Shattuck, A., & Hamby, S. (2012). Recent victimization exposure and suicidal ideation among adolescents. Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine, 166(12). 1149-1154.
National Institute of Justice. (2003). Research in brief. Youth victimization: Prevalence and implications. U.S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs. http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/194972.pdf
Wordes, M., & Nunez, M. (2002). Our vulnerable teenagers: Their victimization, its consequences, and directions for prevention and intervention National Council on Crime and Delinquency: 15. http://www.ncvc.org/ncvc/main.aspx?dbID=DB_Teens453
Menard, S. (2002). Youth Violence Research Bulletin: Short- and long-term consequences of adolescent victimization:
Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.ncjrs.org/pdffiles1/ojjdp/191210.pdf
Hispanics may be any race. Estimates for whites and blacks in this report do not include Hispanics.
Child Trends Databank. (2015). Violent Crime Victimization. Available at: https://www.childtrends.org/?indicators=violent-crime-victimizationLast updated: December 2015