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Research Into Causes of Youth Violence Is Urged

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WASHINGTON--The federal government should sponsor a longitudinal study of children that improves understanding of the root causes of violence and helps to prevent it, a national panel of scientists has concluded.

A report by the scholars, released this month, also recommends "sustained problem-solving initiatives'' to head off violent behavior, with an emphasis on issues ranging from brain damage in children to places and situations that promote violence.

The report also calls for research on the frequency, causes, and consequences of violence in schools and other institutions where children are in the custody of adults.

The 464-page book, titled "Understanding and Preventing Violence,'' was produced over four years by the National Research Council's 19-member Panel on the Understanding and Control of Violent Behavior. The N.R.C. is the investigating agency of the National Academies of Sciences and Engineering.

The $1.2 million study was funded by the National Institute of Justice, the Centers for Disease Control, and the National Science Foundation.

Cohorts at Birth, 8 Years

According to the report, the federal government should ideally spend $500 million a year for research on violence, up from the fiscal 1989 level of $20.2 million. The new level would be roughly equal to the amount spent on cancer research, or less than 8 percent of the annual budget of the National Institutes of Health.

Recognizing that such an increase is unlikely, the authors say that only 10 percent of the recommended increase would be "sufficient'' to start work on their recommendations.

The longitudinal studies of children proposed by the scientists would be conducted in a variety of communities. They would examine aggressive, violent, and antisocial behaviors to improve understanding and interventions at the biological, individual, and social levels.

The projects would examine two cohorts in each community--the first starting at birth and the second at age 8.

The authors also say a project should also be undertaken to modify places, routine activities, and situations that promote violence, with special attention given to violent events in schools.

Research also should focus on reducing the potential for violence by gangs and on determining the role of drugs and firearms in violent events, with special attention paid to patterns of firearms acquisition and use by juveniles.

In addition, the panel says a "high priority'' should be placed on gathering more information on violence.

Copies of the report are available for $49.95 each, prepaid, plus $4.00 shipping for the first copy and $.50 for each additional copy, from the National Academy Press, 2101 Constitution Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20418; (202) 334-3313 or (800) 624-6242.

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