Neighborhood Disadvantage and Verbal Ability as Explanations of the Black–White Difference in Adolescent Violence: Toward an Integrated Model


This article develops a multilevel model that integrates individual difference and sociological explanations of the Black-White difference in adolescent violence. Our basic premise is that low verbal ability is a criminogenic risk factor that is in part an outcome of exposure to neighborhood and family disadvantages. Analysis of the 1997 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth reveals that verbal ability has direct and indirect effects (through school achievement) on violence, provides a partial explanation for the racial disparity, and mediates the effect of socioeconomic disadvantage at the neighborhood level. Results support the view that neighborhood and family disadvantages have repercussions for the acquisition of verbal ability, which, in turn, serves as a protective factor against violence. We conclude that explanation of the race difference is best conceived as originating from the segregation of Blacks in disadvantaged contexts. © The Author(s) 2013.

Publication Title

Crime and Delinquency