The understanding of violent criminal behavior is hindered by definitional problems in both the legal and research communities. Different definitions of violent criminal behavior and different classifications of the severity of violence are fundamental problems that need to be resolved in order to develop better conceptual models of the precursors to criminal violence that can inform management and treatment of violent young offenders. This study evaluated 6 classifications of violent juvenile offenses derived from the legal system and published research. The authors compare frequencies from different classifications and examine the influence of classifications on observed associations with expected predictor variables. Differences in frequencies and perceived associations between classifications highlight the need to adopt a consistent method of coding violent offenses for research purposes in order to obtain valid results that are capable of informing policy, the judiciary, and the development of effective interventions. The final classification system offers a method of systematic coding based on the type, frequency, and outcome of the violent behavior that distinguishes between levels of violence severity.
- Young offenders