Social Contagion of Adolescent Violence

Award Year:
Jeffrey Fagan
Adolescent Health, Violence
While the 1985-1998 epidemic of adolescent violence in U.S. cities has generated intense scholarly and policy interest, spatial and temporal diffusion of the epidemic have been largely overlooked. This project will explore whether current models of infectious disease epidemics can be adapted to explain the spread of youthful violence - particularly its onset, spread, peak, recession and cessation. It will also examine the resilience of some neighborhoods to epidemics of violence, despite social similarities to "infected" communities. Dr. Fagan will construct a conceptual model integrating elements of disease and injury epidemiology with sociological theories of diffusion and contagion. He will apply the model to data on violence morbidity and mortality derived from New York City's 2,220 census tracts. He also will integrate data from life history interviews with young men involved in interpersonal violence to construct a model of social interaction that illustrates the mechanisms of transmission. The project hopes to identify and help resolve competing perspectives on the control of social epidemics as well as leading to more sophisticated strategies for addressing them.