Youth violence, an examination of adolescent, caregiver and correctional personnel perceptions regarding offending and behavioural actions

by Adamson, Janet Stewart

Abstract (Summary)
Tho etiology of youth violence has been ideologically and empirically analyzed from several theoretical perspectives: biological, psychological, sociological, psychiatric, and critical-theoretical. Each perspective claims to identify pertinent factors that interact in combinations to determine the sequential ordering of contributory processes. But criminological consensus is lacking in the identification of any single, or generic explanation of violence, given ideological differences in theoretical orientations and ernpiricaldifficulties in delineating contributory pathways to violent offending. The present study examines the life histories of 29 youths convicted of violent crimes such as assault (physical, verbal), robbery, and homicide. A multi-level theoretical focus identified socio-familial circumstances mediated by contextual forces external to the family as primary influences on violence. Although considerable literature has conceptualized individual behaviour within psychiatric diagnostic categories i.e., psychopathy, the present analysis will not locate contributory processes within a pathologized off ender. Information was acquired through an integration of file and interview-based data sources. A qualitative research focus recorded youth verbatim perceptions and insights to interview questions that probed the significance of Life experiences iii such as exposure to physical abuse and peer influences, to initiation and continuation in violent offending and behaviour. Views of family members e.g., caregivers and correctional personnel e-g. , probation off icers, psychiatrists, and institutional staff, obtained £rom file records, supported youth perceptions and added unique insights regarding their understanding of adolescent experiences and actions. The research unveiled the importance of youth life events either supportive or challenging to findings derived from the current literature on youth violence. Overall, adolescents were exposed to family background circumstances such as parental separation, stressors (economic insecurity), and exposure to physical abuse identified across familial forms. Contextual influences such as substance use/abuse and peer affiliations shaped motivations for violent offending in youth predisposedto socio-familial contributory processes. Violence was not a random, impulsive act, but was triggered by a value system that legitimated its use for articulated reasons such as protection and problem resolution. Positive experiences deemed protective in shielding youth susceptibility to future violence included caregiver concern for behavioural and offending difficulties, youth affective feelings towards significant persons, educationalachievement, and ernployment aspirations. To the Memory of My Mother Grace (~orchy) Stewart Adamson Whose inspiration, guidance, and love will always be with me and for Austin 1 would like to thank a number of people who took a special part in making this thesis possible. To those youths who shared and entrusted their life stories to me, thankyou for your openness and honesty. Mr. Alan Markwart was instrumental in providing access to correctional records at Burnaby Youth Secure Custody Centre. Several persons here were valuable in familiarizing me with file sources, institutional procedures, and programs that eased a cornplex and difficult data collection phase: Willard Cook, Andrew Cronkhite, Pam Drew, Allison Ford, Martha Kinnear, Anita MacDonnell, Nin Mand, Debbie Moisey, Steve Watkins , Loralee Wilkin, and Mercedes Vazero. A special thanks in particular, to Barbara Kirkland whose knowledge, guidance, and input throughout the research was greatly appreciated. Pam Drew was extremely helpful in scheduling youth interview sessions. 1 would like to thank the staff of Holly Open Custody Centre and Burnaby Correctional Centre for Women (Delta Unit) for arranging my access to interview youths. Jack Duke and Ted Ingram were especially helpful in this process. 1 appreciate the efforts of Marie Krbavac on the construction of al1 figures in the thesis. 1 also thank those students at Juvenile Services to the Court for their prelirninary assistance on the codebook document. 1 want to acknowledge the efforts of my supervisory committee, Ray Corrado and Bill Glackman, for making the vi research process a valued learning experience. To Ray Corrado, your assistance, guidance, and interest in my thesis will always be appreciated and remembered. Bob Menzies provided a theoretical grounding in critical theory, required in the critique of psychiatric discourse. Curt Griffiths and Brian Burtch, thanks for your support and friendship throughout the Masterfs program. To my family, Dad and James, your love, inspiration, and strength is fondly cherished. And to my friends, Teresa, Cynthia, and Elaine thanks for being there when 1 needed you. vii
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Source Type:Master's Thesis



Date of Publication:01/01/1997

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