seal  Purdue News

June 12, 2003

Youth violence expert talks about hazing

Cliques have always been a part of the high school experience for teenage girls, but are violent hazing incidents involving girls more common than thought?

A Purdue University sociologist who studies youth violence says violent incidents, such as the one in a Chicago suburb that left girls with broken bones and stitches, are rare.

"Cliques are important for teenagers because they are a way to establish identities, and they are a universal feature of the fabric of high school," Jack Spencer says. "Such violence is rare, but hazing is a big part of youth culture. Hazing is a ritualized way of marking entrance into higher status groups or cliques. This incident resembles more mob behavior because of the number of people who participated in the violence and the relative anonymity or loss of individuality that those numbers afford. In mobs and in this instance, it would seem that individuals engage in behavior that they normally wouldn't because they get caught up in the behavior of the group."

More than two dozen seniors from Glenbrook North High School have been expelled in a hazing incident that took place in May.

"This story is sure to have a long shelf life because it’s about girls in an upper middle class neighborhood," Spencer says. "It will be interesting to see how the story stays in the news, but I think we will start to see the media, public and participants asking where we should attribute blame.

"What's going to be interesting about these attributions is that this incident involved violence and alcohol that was apparently provided by parents," he says. "Will blame of responsibility be attributed to the girls, to the parents, to who provided the alcohol or to school officials?"

CONTACT: Jack Spencer, (765) 494-4677,