Juvenile delinquency is characterized by antisocial behavior that is beyond parental control and subject to legal action. If a child is exhibiting these behaviors or early signs of these behaviors, that does not mean that the child will ever commit a crime, although the likelihood of doing so may increase. How do you change a child that seems to be going down the wrong path? Ultimately, parents may have the most control over the behaviors of their children. When families simply find time to be together, it can increase the possibility for positive outcomes and delinquency prevention. A survey from Columbia University showed that children from families who had dinner together five to seven times per week were significantly less likely to experiment with legal or illegal substances.
Additionally, teenagers whose parents are not actively involved or interested in their lives are more likely to become bullies, which may ultimately lead to involvement in gangs or violent behavior. By simply taking an active interest in their children’s lives, parents are in an incredibly powerful position to help stave off juvenile delinquency. However, parents cannot solve this problem on their own, and many do not even realize how important their role is in preventing delinquent behavior.
If children do not have a strong family unit to support them, such as children in foster care, placement, or temporary housing, then they need to look to building up protective factors that may reduce the likelihood of delinquency. Protective factors are traits or experiences that help counteract risk factors. Communities and schools can help accomplish this by fostering the positive in children.
Children are generally resilient and able to manage stress and function well—even when faced with adversity and trauma. By emotionally supporting children, minimizing their stressors, and building relationships with them—a parent or caregiver can change a child’s entire life for the better.
“Empirically Based Strategies for Preventing Juvenile Delinquency” by Dustin A. Pardini, Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America (2016)
Abstract: Juvenile crime is a serious public health problem that results in significant emotional and financial costs for victims and society. Using etiologic models as a guide, multiple interventions have been developed to target risk factors thought to perpetuate the emergence and persistence of delinquent behavior. Evidence suggests that the most effective interventions tend to have well-defined treatment protocols, focus on therapeutic approaches as opposed to external control techniques, and use multimodal cognitive-behavioral treatment strategies. Moving forward, there is a need to develop effective policies and procedures that promote the widespread adoption of evidence-based delinquency prevention practices across multiple settings. Purchase access to the full article.
Can At-Risk Youth be Diverted From Crime? A Meta-Analysis of Restorative Diversion Programs
Wong, Jennifer & Bouchard, Jessica & Gravel, Jason & Bouchard, Martin & Morselli, Carlo. (2016). Can At-Risk Youth Be Diverted From Crime?: A Meta-Analysis of Restorative Diversion Programs. Criminal Justice and Behavior. 43. 10.1177/0093854816640835.
Abstract: Existing reviews of the impact of restorative justice programs on juvenile recidivism have reached mixed conclusions. The present meta-analysis identified relevant studies through a systematic search of 20 databases over a 25-year period as well as the ancestry method. Application of inclusion criteria resulted in a set of 21 studies contributing 21 independent effect sizes. Programs were found to be overall effective at reducing recidivism, with a pooled odds ratio of 1.28. Subgroup analyses indicate strong evidence that study and treatment characteristics play a role in evaluation results, such as strength of research design and racial/ethnic mix of program participants. Overall quality of the literature is relatively weak, with the large majority of studies derived from non-peer-reviewed sources and a lack of detail presented on treatment characteristics. Limitations with respect to exclusion criteria, sample sizes, and between-study heterogeneity are discussed.
“Juvenile Pre-Arrest Diversion in Florida” by Florida TaxWatch (2016)
This briefing discuses the expansion of juvenile pre-arrest diversion programs (JPADs) in Florida. According to this source, such programs have resulted in reduced recidivism during both adolescence and adulthood and increased cost efficiency and return on investment. Florida, however, has also faced a number of issues in application, resulting in a juvenile justice system where “the level of punishment is a better reflection of Florida’s geography than the severity of the crime committed.” Read the full briefing.
“Sports Participation and Juvenile Delinquency: A Meta-Analytic Review” by Anouk Spruit, Eveline van Vugt, Claudia van der Put, Trudy van der Stouwe, and Geert-Jan Stams, The Journal of Youth and Adolescence (2016)
Abstract: Participation in sports activities is very popular among adolescents, and is frequently encouraged among youth. Many psychosocial health benefits in youth are attributed to sports participation, but to what extent this positive influence holds for juvenile delinquency is still not clear on both the theoretical and empirical level. There is much controversy on whether sports participation should be perceived as a protective or a risk factor for the development of juvenile delinquency. A multilevel meta-analysis of 51 published and unpublished studies, with 48 independent samples containing 431 effect sizes and N = 132,366 adolescents, was conducted to examine the relationship between sports participation and juvenile delinquency and possible moderating factors of this association. The results showed that there is no overall significant association between sports participation and juvenile delinquency, indicating that adolescent athletes are neither more nor less delinquent than non-athletes. Some study, sample and sports characteristics significantly moderated the relationship between sports participation and juvenile delinquency. However, this moderating influence was modest. Implications for theory and practice concerning the use of sports to prevent juvenile delinquency are discussed. Read the full article.
“The Prevention of Detention” by David A. Brent, and Rolf Loeber, The American Journal of Psychiatry (2015)
This article discusses how intervention can be used to prevent detention in later life. In particular, the authors focus on the Fast Track prevention program, which has the goal of attenuating the “trajectory of disruptive behavior and associated sequlae” in youths. Read the full article.
“Delinquent Behavior, the Transition to Adulthood, and the Likelihood of Military Enlistment” by Jay Teachman and Lucky Tedrow, Social Science Research (2014)
Abstract: Using data taken from the 1997 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth we examine the relationship between delinquency and enlistment in the military. We argue that delinquent behavior is positively related to enlistment because military service is an attractive alternative for delinquents to mark their transition to adulthood and their desistance from delinquent behavior. We also argue, however, that this relationship is not linear, with higher levels of delinquent behavior actually acting to reduce the likelihood of enlistment. We further suggest that the relationship between delinquency and enlistment is similar for men and women. We test and find support for our hypotheses using data taken from the 1997 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. Read the full article.
“How to Turn Around Troubled Teens” by Hal Arkowitz and Scott O. Lillenfeld, Scientific American (2014)
This article discusses a number of ineffective get-tough treatments for delinquent juveniles, including boot camp, Scared Straight programs, and juvenile transfer laws. Read the full article.
“The Effect of Youth Diversion Programs on Recidivism: A Meta-Analytic Review” by Holly A. Wilson and Robert D. Hodge, Criminal Justice and Behavior (2013)
Abstract: Pre- and postcharge diversion programs have been used as a formal intervention strategy for youth offenders since the 1970s. This meta-analysis was conducted to shed some light on whether diversion reduces recidivism at a greater rate than traditional justice system processing and to explore aspects of diversion programs associated with greater reductions in recidivism. Forty-five diversion evaluation studies reporting on 73 programs were included in the meta-analysis. The results indicated that diversion is more effective in reducing recidivism than conventional judicial interventions. Moderator analysis revealed that both study- and program-level variables influenced program effectiveness. Of particular note was the relationship between program-level variables (e.g., referral level) and the risk level targeted by programs (e.g., low or medium/high). Further research is required implementing strong research designs and exploring the role of risk level on youth diversion effectiveness. Read the full article.
“What Doesn’t Work in Preventing and Reducing Juvenile Delinquency” by James C. Howell, Preventing and Reducing Juvenile Delinquency: A Comprehensive Framework (2003)
Abstract: Thanks to the voluminous increase in the number of program evaluations in the past couple of decades, evidence is accumulating that some prevention and intervention strategies and programs simply do not work with juvenile offenders. I address many of the strategies and programs that do not work in the first two main sections of this chapter, and then discuss the evidence to date on many others for which the research findings are unclear, contradictory, or nonexistent. I discuss two particular ineffective strategies in some detail in later chapters: In Chapter 8, I address the failed policy of transferring juveniles to the criminal justice system, and in Chapter 11, I review some of the ineffective “collaboration” strategies that have been used in some jurisdictions for dealing with juvenile delinquency. Read the full chapter.
“Scared Straight and Other Juvenile Awareness Programs for Preventing Juvenile Delinquency: A Systematic Review of the Randomized Experimental Evidence” by Anthony Petrosino, Carolyn Turner-Petrosino, and John Buehler, The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science (2003)
Abstract: Scared Straight and other programs involve organized visits to prison facilities by juvenile delinquents or at-risk kids to deter them from delinquency. Despite several research studies and reviews questioning their effectiveness, they remain in use and have now been tried in at least six nations. The authors report here on the results of a systematic review of randomized experimental tests of this program. Studies that tested any program involving the organized visits of delinquents or at-risk children to penal institutions were included. Each study had to have a no-treatment control condition with at least one outcome measure of “postvisit” criminal behavior. Using extensive search methods, the authors located nine randomized trials meeting eligibility criteria. After describing the studies and appraising their methodological quality, the authors present the narrative findings from each evaluation. A meta-analysis of prevalence rates indicates that the intervention on average is more harmful to juveniles than doing nothing. The authors conclude that governments should institute rigorous programs of research to ensure that well-intentioned treatments do not cause harm to the citizens they pledge to protect. Read the full article.
Beyond Bars: Keeping Young People Safe at Home and Out of Youth Prisons by the National Collaboration for Youth (2016)
Abstract: Beyond Bars advocates for communities and systems to close youth prisons by developing a vast array of services and supports that can hold youth accountable in the community while also meeting their needs and building on strengths. It offers a blueprint for systems and communities to establish guiding principles, core services and an organizing tool to shift from a facility-based juvenile justice system to a community-based youth justice system. Some of guiding principles include focusing on need and not slots; building on restoring a sense of relatedness by building on strengths, competency and autonomy; asset mapping communities that are often characterized only by their deficits, and; implementing culturally competent programs. While every community is different, the report also focuses on core services that should comprise the bedrock of any continuum of care, along with key strategies to create a robust array of community support and services for young people in need. Read the report.