A comparison of contemporary and traditional classification schemes used to categorise youth violence
Across various jurisdictions, crime statistics indicate the rate of youth offending, particularly violent offending, has increased over the last decade. Anecdotal evidence further suggests the nature of youth offending has changed over this time-frame; including an increase in more serious criminal behaviour as well as changes in both the demographic and psychological profiles of youth offenders. This is particularly evident in accounts depicting an increasing tendency amongst some young people to engage in acts of 'appetitive' violence. This is a form of violence purportedly perpetrated by youth in an excitable and predatory state, which differs from the more common forms of reactive and instrumental violence. Although newsprint media reports suggest that appetitive violence is alarmingly common, there is currently no corroborating empirical evidence. This paper explores the classification of violence by youth utilising three contemporary classification systems. One hundred and forty-three case files from the Children's Court Clinic in Victoria, Australia, were examined, comparing all youth (aged 10-19) convicted of a violent offence referred to the Clinic for psychological assessment in the years 2000 and 2010. Results indicated a similarly low prevalence of appetitive violence (2000-15.8%; 2010-8.6%). Further, they indicated the quadripartite and tripartite classification systems increased the discrimination of aggressive behaviours beyond that provided by the traditional reactive/instrumental dichotomy.