Self-Report Data

Self-reports studies are an important source of information about offenders and their offenses. In that respect, they often provide more information than do the UCR Program and the NCVS about the people who actually commit crimes. Self-report surveys ask people to reveal information about themselves and their own law violations. The basic assumption of self-report studies is that the assurance of anonymity and confidentiality will encourage people to be honest about their illegal activities.

Self-report studies were first used in the 1940s (Thornberry and Krone, 2000). Such surveys are typically given to adolescents, usually students in high school classes, and researchers often use college students as subjects for self-report studies. There are notable self-report surveys, for instance, the Monitoring the Future surveys. Monitoring the Future is an annual survey of 8th, 10th, and 12th graders conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research, under a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the National Institutes of Health. Since 1975, the survey has measured drug, alcohol, and cigarette use and related attitudes in 12th graders nationwide. Eighth and tenth graders were added to the survey in 1991. Overall, 41,675 students from 389 public and private schools participated in the 2013 survey (NIDA, 2014).

Other annual surveys include the Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring II (ADAM II) program. Since 2007, the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) has sponsored the ADAM II data collection program in nine U.S. counties and the District of Columbia. ADAM II is an annual survey designed to gather information about the drug use of arrested adults. Another annual survey is conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), whose mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America’s communities. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) is the primary source of information on the prevalence, patterns, and consequences of alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drug use and abuse and mental disorders in the U.S. civilian, noninstitutionalized population, age 12 and older.

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