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Cohort differences in the progression of developmental pathways: evidence for period effects on secular trends of violence in males
  1. A Fabio1,
  2. Z Yuan1,
  3. S R Wisniewski2,
  4. D B Henry3,
  5. D P Farrington4,
  6. J A Bridge5,
  7. R Loeber6
  1. 1
    Department of Neurosurgery, Center for Injury Research and Control, School of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, USA
  2. 2
    Epidemiology Data Center, Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, USA
  3. 3
    Institute for Juvenile Research, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA
  4. 4
    Institute of Criminology, Cambridge University, Cambridge, UK
  5. 5
    The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Department of Pediatrics, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, USA
  6. 6
    Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, USA
  1. Dr Anthony Fabio, Center for Injury Research and Control, PARKV 203, 3520 Forbes Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15261, USA; fabioa{at}


Background: Rates of violence in the USA have fluctuated widely over the past few decades. Theorists have examined period and cohort effects, but there appear to be no studies examining these effects on progression in developmental pathways towards violence.

Objective: To assess whether differences in progression among individuals in the Pittsburgh Youth Study are consistent with period or cohort effects.

Design: Multivariate logistic regression was conducted to examine differences between cohorts in the odds of progressing through the developmental pathway towards violence. Adjusted and unadjusted odds ratios (ORs) and corresponding 95% CI are reported.

Setting: Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, from 1987 to 2000.

Subjects: Two cohorts of male adolescents from the Pittsburgh Youth Study. The youngest cohort (n = 503) was followed from median ages 7 to 20, and the oldest cohort (n = 506) was followed up from median ages 13 to 25.

Main outcome measure: The odds of progression along a developmental pathway towards violence.

Results: There was no statistically significant difference between the cohorts in progression from minor aggression to physical fighting (OR = 1.13, 95% CI 0.77 to 1.65). However, after adjustment for major risk factors, the oldest cohort was significantly more likely to progress from physical fighting to violence (OR = 2.34, 95% CI 1.39 to 3.92).

Conclusions: These results provide initial evidence that cohort effects, which would be present early in development, do not contribute significantly to later differences in reported violence and raises the possibility of whether period effects can explain these differences.

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  • Funding: This study was supported in part by a training grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (1K01 CE000495-01) and research grants from the National Institute of Mental Health (MH-73941 and MH-507780).

  • Competing interests: None declared.