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To the Editor: The potential benefits of cross-national research are numerous. Some of these include the establishment of universality of causes, identification of unique or dissimilar effects in various times and places, and guidance for interventions that have a broad range of applicability. David W. Brook, M.D., et al. (1) provided initial evidence of multilevel influences on violent behavior in a large sample (N=2,837) of Colombian adolescents. Although their findings indicate independent effects from personality, peer, familial, and ecological domains, prior violent victimization was the variable most associated with violent behavior. Broadly, these findings are consistent with prior research assessing correlates of violent behavior among adolescents in U.S. samples. Of note, and what is most problematic, is that relatively little is known about the prevalence, nature, and trajectory of violent behavior among children and adolescents globally. Dr. Brook and colleagues contribute to the nascent storehouse of data on cross-national violence.
Their analyses, however, are subject to several limitations that possess implications for future cross-sectional research. First, rather than the six-item measure employed in the present study that collected simple frequency data on only a few types of violent behaviors, instruments deployed in future studies should gather information on the unfolding nature, variety, temporal ordering, and precipitating events that surround violent encounters. Second, because of ample heterogeneity among adolescents who report violent behavior, examining similarities and differences in frequency data across the range of risk factors on typologies of violence and on categories of youth who report no, low, and high rates of violent behavior would be illuminating. Taken together, these suggestions would supply practically useful information as well as generate a rich set of testable hypotheses that can be linked to an array of theoretically meaningful propositions. Finally, given that data collected in this study were based solely on adolescent self-reporting, assessment items regarding deviant responding and/or social desirability might have facilitated a useful check on respondent validity.
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