Roaming Teens Trouble in Any Neighborhood

COLUMBUS, Ohio, July 27 (UPI) — Teens gathering with nothing to do and no adult supervision are at risk of violent behavior, even in better neighborhoods, U.S. researchers say.

Study co-author Christopher Browning, an associate professor of sociology at Ohio State University, says the long-term study of 80 Chicago neighborhoods from 1994 to 2002 involved 842 youth ages 8-13, finds informal teen gatherings significantly increased the likelihood of violent behavior by the adolescents.

The levels of violence differed according to the neighborhoods, but often groups of unsupervised teens had higher levels of violence — including many relatively “good” neighborhoods where residents say they trust and help each other and watch each other’s children.

Browning and David Maimon, a former Ohio State graduate student, measured levels of what sociologists call “collective efficacy” in each neighborhood — neighbors trust each other, are willing to help each other and intervene to control public spaces and help keep each other’s kids in line.

The study, published in the journal Criminology, finds neighborhoods with high levels of collective efficacy tended to have lower levels of violence, but parents in these high-collective-efficacy neighborhoods were also more likely to let their teens out unsupervised.

“Even if you trust all your neighbors and all the teens are ‘A’ students, it is best to assume that groups of teens just hanging out can lead to problems, including violence,” Browning says in a statement.

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