Did Juvenile Domestic Violence Offending Change During COVID-19?

Date01 January 2022
Published date01 January 2022
Subject MatterArticles
Did Juvenile Domestic Violence
Offending Change During
Michael T. Baglivio
, Kevin T. Wolff
, Joan A. Reid
Sherry L. Jackson
, and Alex R. Piquero
The current study castssome of the first light into the initial impacts of the largest global health crisis
in a generation on family and domestic violence, the long-term repercussions of which may take
decades to unpack. Statewide trends in juvenile arrests for domestic violence (DV)-related offending
are examined, taking into account school closures for in-person learning in March 2020 and the
subsequent mandate for an in-person learning option in Florida in August 2020. Additionally, trends
by sex, race/ethnicity, and severity of the offense are examined. Contrasting with growing studies
demonstrating an increase in DV-related arrests among adults, we find a significant decrease upon
school closures then subsequent increase when schools reopened with an in-person option. Results
held across examined subgroups, yet the extent of increase following mandatory in-person learning
availability was not as uniform, with Hispanic youth showing the smallest increase and Black youth
the largest. Implications are discussed.
COVID-19, domestic violence, juvenile offending, arrest trends
The deleterious health consequences related to COVID-19 are staggering, with over 38 million
confirmed cases and exceeding 630,000 deaths as of late-August 2021 in the United States alone
(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2021; Johns Hopkins University, 2021). That
number of deceased is larger than the entire population of Baltimore, Maryland. In addition to the
health-related toll that the novel coronavirus has taken throughout the US and around the globe, a
growing body of research is documenting the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on an array of
factors including economic/social (Bartik et al., 2020; Schwab & Malleret, 2020), mental health
Youth Opportunity Investments, LLC, Petersburg, FL, USA
University of South Florida, St. Petersburg, FL, USA
John Jay College of Criminal Justice, New York, NY, USA
Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, Centerview Drive, Knight Building, Tallahassee, FL, USA
University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL, USA
Monash University, Melbourne, Australia
Corresponding Author:
Michael T. Baglivio, Youth Opportunity Investments, LLC, 701 94th Ave. N., Suite 100, St. Petersburg, FL 33702, USA.
Email: michael.baglivio@youthopportunity.com
Youth Violence and JuvenileJustice
ªThe Author(s) 2021
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/15412040211047266
2022, Vol. 20(1) 63 –79
64 Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice 20(1)
symptomology and suicidal ideation (Gaidhane et al., 2020; Marchetti et al., 2020; O’Connor et al.,
2021; Shanahan et al., 2020), family and domestic violence (Campbell, 2020; Ellis et al., 2021;
Piquero et al., 2021; Piquero et al., 2020), and criminal offending, including homicide (e.g., Rosen-
feld & Lopez, 2021). The initial impacts of COVID-19 across these outcomes have overwhelmingly
indicated detriment.
As the knowledge base accumulates, one glaring omission has been the extent to which there have
been any potential changes in the nature and type of juvenile offending, especially given the school
closures/suspension of in-person learning that occurred during 2020. Accordingly, the current study
seeks to extend our knowledge of the pandemic’s effects on unhealthy behavior to domestic
violence-related offending among juveniles. Specifically, we advance from prior work by examining
pre-pandemic through 1-year post-pandemic onset of incidents of domestic violence-related arrests
of youth across a statewide sample. Additionally, the current study explores differences by sex, race/
ethnicity, and levels of offense severity.
COVID and Adult Domestic Violence Arrests
For domestic violence and child abuse/neglect victims, the very ordinances aimed at flattening the
COVID curve may have inadvertently led to a potential exacerbation of such victimization. Namely,
social isolation due to stay-at-home orders, limited interactions with others outside of the home due
to fear of COVID transmission and/or non-essential business and institution closures creating a
situation unintentionally mimicking perpetrator-imposed restrictions, coercion and control (Camp-
bell, 2020; Ellis et al., 2021; Piquero et al., 2020). These restrictions coupled with any onset of and/
or increase in substance abuse, financial difficulties and stress/strain may create the perfect storm for
increases in the prevalence of family violence as victims are trapped at home with irritable perpe-
trators with limited outlets for relief. Indeed, initial increases in domestic violence post-pandemic
onset were reported in China, Brazil, Italy, Spain, and in the United States (Campbell, 2020).
Most notably, Piquero and colleagues’ systematic review of 18 studies across 37 estimates
covering studies from the U.S., Mexico, Italy, Sweden, Australia, Argentina, and India found an
overall 7.9%increase in domestic violence, with an 8.1%increase among studies conducted in the
United States specifically (Piquero et al., 2021). Notably, 29 of the 37 estimates included in their
meta-analysis indicated a significant domestic violence increase in response to stay-at-home/lock-
down orders. While the studies reviewed herein have largely focused on official records, additional
work has indicated similar short-term domestic violence increases in both accounts from services
providers (Pfitzner et al., 2020) and from self-reports (Jetelina et al., 2021). Relatedly, evidence
regarding increases in child abuse and neglect across countries as an unintended result of stay-at-
home/lockdown orders has been documented (Ellis et al., 2021). Grounded upon theoretical and
empirical work linking childhood maltreatment and later life violence (e.g., Ellis et al., 2017;
Widom, 1989), Ellis and colleagues argue such increases in adverse childhood experiences/trau-
matic exposure may serve to substantively increase future violence and harm as these lockdown
youth age (Ellis et al., 2021; see also Green, 2020).
COVID and Juvenile Delinquency
While COVID-related research in crime and delinquency is steadily increasing, little prior work has
examined juvenile offending specifically. Initial theoretically-driven forecasting predicted the ordi-
nances imposedin efforts to flatten the curve of COVID transmission, such as stay-at-homeorders and
social distancing would lead to a decline in juvenile delinquency (Buchanan, et al., 2020). This
assumption of delinquency decline was relatedto 1) decreased peer associations, 2) increased parental
monitoring, and3) reduced opportunities (all three of which are primarily due tostay-at-home orders,
2Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice XX(X)

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