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    Please direct correspondence to Thomas L. McNulty, The University of Georgia. Department of Sociology, Baldwin Hall. Athens, GA 30602–1611. We thank Martha Meyers, Vincent Roscigno, Chris Browning, Dana Haynie, Jim Coverdill. Mark Cooney, the editors, and anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments and suggestions.

  • Thomas L. McNulty, associate professor of sociology at the University of Georgia, received his Ph.D. in 1996 at the University at Albany-SUNY. His current research focuses on the role played by community and spatial contexts in explaining racial-ethnic differences in violence, the relationship between public housing and neighborhood crime patterns, and labor market effects on delinquency.

  • Paul E. Bellair, associate professor of sociology at The Ohio State University, received his Ph.D. in 1995 at the University at Albany-SUNY. His current research examines neighborhood and labor market effects on adolescent drug use, gang membership, and violence, including racial difference and recidivism among parolees in community context.


This study explains racial/ethnic differences in serious adolescent violent behavior using a contextual model derived from prior urban, developmental, and criminological theory. Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health, we compare involvement in serious violence among Asians, blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans, and whites. Results indicate that statistical differences between whites and minority groups are explained by variation in community disadvantage (for blacks), involvement in gangs (for Hispanics), social bonds (for Native Americans), and situational variables (for Asians). The lesser involvement in violence among Asians compared to blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans is accounted for by similar factors. Differences in violent behavior among the latter three minority groups are not significant. Theoretical and policy implications of the findings are discussed.