But contrary to the stereotype that these inner-city offenders are cold-blooded and heartless, interviews revealed that many felt sadness and grief at the violence they have seen and perpetrated.
When asked how witnessing a violent shooting affected them, the most common response (expressed by 30 percent) was not wanting to talk about it because it was too upsetting. Another common response was that they felt "nervous," "on edge," "worried," or "panicky" after the shooting incident.
"In some ways, I feel like the interview was the first chance that many of these guys had to get this off their chest," Wilkinson said. "Despite repeated exposure to violence, almost none of the youth received counseling or other services that may have helped them heal."
Of the 780 violent events examined in the study, the largest number (317) involved issues of identity or respect. The second largest category involved disputes over a girl (157 incidents).
These situations led to more violent acts than did those related to crimes, such as robbery or drug business.
Observers can play a key role in whether a confrontation ends violently or not, according to the study. Findings showed that 96 percent of the violent incidents were observed by an audience.
Most of the violent acts recalled by participants never resulted in police action only 28 percent of the incidents ended with an arrest.
Wilkinson said the results show that violence is more than just a police problem.
"If we only think about the violent acts committed by these youth, without thinking about the violence they've experienced themselves and how it affected them, we are going to continue to have new generations of kids with the same problems," she said.
"We need more social services to help these young people deal with the violence they experience every day."
|Contact: Deanna Wilkinson|
Ohio State University