Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Firearm Homicide & Other Causes of Death in Delinquent Youth

Pediatrics Editorial Board Member Joann Schulte, DO, MPH, shares her expert perspective on a new article from our July issue. To learn more about Dr. Schulte and her work in general pediatrics and preventive medicine, check out her bio on our Contributors page.

By: Joann Schulte, DO, MPH

Photo by  AnjaPetrol via Pixabay (modified)
Fairy tales have happy endings, but the real life of delinquent adolescents often end at young ages and by homicide. That stark story is highlighted in researched published this month from Pediatrics’ July issue (doi: 10.1542/ peds.2013-3966).

The Northwestern Juvenile Project examines the health needs and outcomes of delinquents in custody in a prospective, longitudinal study. Linda Telpin and other researchers interviewed 1,829 adolescents in Chicago (Cook County, Illinois) who were in custody between 1995 and 1998 and then tracked the participants during a 16-year period.

They examined vital statistics records to assess deaths and found 111 had died, seven percent of the males and almost four percent of the females. Of those 111 who died, more than two-thirds (75 and 68 percent, for males and females, respectively) had been murdered, most often with firearms (68 and 91 percent, for males and females, respectively). In the study, female delinquents died at almost 5 times higher rates than the general population. Among Hispanic males and females, the death rates were 5 and 9 times greater than the general population.

This study is considered important because it includes ethnic and racial minorities and calculated death rates and compares them to the general population.

Researchers involved in the project are from Northwestern University, Edward Hines, Jr. Veterans Administration Hospital and the University of Illinois – Chicago Institute for Juvenile Research. They have also published related research on psychiatric disorders among the adolescents and published an earlier assessment in Pediatrics. The 2005 study in Pediatrics also found homicide to be most common cause of death in the study population.

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