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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Northwestern: First Large-Scale Study to Look at Death Rates in Delinquent Youth

Delinquency in youth predicts a significantly higher rate of violent death in adulthood — especially from firearms — and females are among the most vulnerable, reports a new Northwestern Medicine study.

Delinquent females died violently at nearly five times the rate of those in the general population, according to the study, while delinquent males died at three times general population rates. Death rates in Hispanic males and females were five and nine times more than the general population rates, respectively.


[Photo: Dr. Linda Teplin]

This is the first large-scale study to look at death rates in delinquent females and adds new data on Hispanics, now the largest minority group in the U.S. The paper will be published June 16 in the journal Pediatrics. In addition, violent death up to age 34 was predicted by three risk factors in adolescence: alcohol use disorder, selling drugs, and gang involvement, according to the study.

“Our findings are shocking,” said lead author Dr. Linda Teplin, the Owen L. Coon Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “Death rates in our sample of delinquent youth, ages 15 to 19, are nearly twice those of troops in combat in wartime Iraq and Afghanistan.”

“Early violent death is a health disparity,” added Dr. Teplin. “Youth who get detained are disproportionately poor and disproportionately racial and ethnic minorities. We must address early violent death the same as any other health disparity.”

The youth in the study were randomly selected before their case was disposed, and had not yet been convicted of any crime. Of the original participants, 111 died. Among those who died, 75 (68 percent) were victims of homicide of which 68 (91 percent) were killed with firearms. African Americans were 4.5 times more likely to die from homicide than non-Hispanic Whites.

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