In the 1990s, youth violence has increasingly come to be seen as a public-health problem. We talk of the "epidemic" of violence in our cities, its epidemiology in the physical and social environment, and the evidence of "contagion" from one neighborhood to the next. Considering the attention given to youth violence, surprisingly little is known about the prevalence of violence in the general population of young people and the characteristics of violent youths — their family backgrounds, their attachments to friends and school, their participation in other problem behaviors. We do have information about violence in special populations — gangs and inner-city youths, for example — and something is known of the prevalence of delinquency in the general population. However, the characteristics of delinquents (including vandals and thieves) may not be those of violent youths. Finally, there is disagreement on the degree to which boys and girls differ in patterns of violence.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation research brief series. RAND research briefs present policy-oriented summaries of individual published, peer-reviewed documents or of a body of published work.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.