Risk Factors for Delinquency: An Overview - PDF Document

Presentation Transcript

  1. Risk Factors for Delinquency: An Overview by Michael Shader1 The juvenile justice field has spent much time and these variables has an effect on the patient’s cardiac energy attempting to understand the causes of health. After this risk assessment, the doctor may delinquency. Different theoretical models describe suggest ways for the patient to reduce his or her risk the relationship between variables and outcomes. factors. Similarly, if a youth possesses certain risk Researchers have concluded that there is no single factors, research indicates that these factors will path to delinquency and note that the presence of increase his or her chance of becoming a several risk factors often increases a youth’s chance delinquent. A risk assessment may aid in of offending. Studies also point to the interaction of determining the type of intervention that will best risk factors, the multiplicative effect when several suit the youth’s needs and decrease his or her risk of risk factors are present, and how certain protective offending. Farrington (2000) calls this recent factors may work to offset risk factors. movement toward the public health model the “risk factor paradigm,” the basic idea of which is to In recent years, the juvenile justice field has “identify the key risk factors for offending and tool adopted an approach from the public health arena prevention methods designed to counteract them” in an attempt to understand the causes of (Farrington, 2000:1). delinquency and work toward its prevention (Farrington, 2000; Moore, 1995). For example, the Although much of the research on risk factors that medical community’s efforts to prevent cancer and youth face has focused on predicting serious and heart disease have successfully targeted risk factors violent offenses, risk factors are relevant to all (Farrington, 2000). To evaluate a patient’s risk of levels of delinquency. This article defines risk suffering a heart attack, a doctor commonly asks factors, explains why they are important, and briefly for the patient’s medical history, family history, discusses some of the major risk factors linked to diet, weight, and exercise level because each of delinquency and violence. 1Michael Shader, Ph.D., is a Social Science Program Specialist in the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s (OJJDP’s) Research and Program Development Division. 1

  2. Risk Factors for Delinquency: An Overview What Is a Risk Factor? Four Steps of the Risk Factor Approach Mercy and O’Carroll (1998) summarize the four steps of the public health approach to decisionmaking as follows: Risk factors have been broadly defined as “those characteristics, variables, or hazards that, if present • Public health surveillance (i.e., developing and refining data systems for ongoing analysis and disseminating data). for a given individual, make it more likely that this individual, rather than someone selected from the general population, will develop a disorder” • Risk group identification (i.e., identifying individuals at greatest risk of disease or injury and the places, times, and other circumstances associated with increased risk). (Mrazek and Haggerty, 1994:127). Kazdin and colleagues (1997) note that a risk factor predicts an increased probability of later offending. A recent • Risk factor exploration (i.e., analytically exploring the potentially causative risk factors). report from the U.S. Surgeon General more specifically defines a risk factor as “anything that • Program implementation and evaluation (i.e., designing, implementing, and evaluating preventive measures based on an understanding of the population at risk and the community’s identified risk factors). increases the probability that a person will suffer harm” (Office of the Surgeon General, 2001 (chapter 4)). The criminal justice field adopted these steps for its risk factor approach. Criminologists compile statistics on the prevalence of crimes through the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports and the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Crime Victimization Survey. They then apply the techniques of risk group identification to crime as they attempt to determine those at greatest risk of offending. Criminal justice researchers explore risk factors by applying theoretical models and statistical techniques to determine which risk factors are linked to crime. The criminal justice sector then works to develop, design, and implement programs that attempt to prevent offending. These programs are then evaluated to determine whether they are successful and cost effective. Psychologists Coie and colleagues (1993) noted the following regarding risk factors:2 • Dysfunction has a complicated relationship with risk factors; rarely is one risk factor associated with a particular disorder. • The impact of risk factors may vary with the developmental state of the individual. • Exposure to multiple risk factors has a Although researchers use risk factors to detect the cumulative effect. likelihood of later offending, many youth with multiple risk factors never commit delinquent or • Many disorders share fundamental risk factors. violent acts. A risk factor may increase the probability of offending, but does not make 2Similar conclusions could be drawn in the juvenile justice field regarding delinquent behavior. offending a certainty. 2

  3. Risk Factors for Delinquency: An Overview risk factors is 10 times as likely to commit a violent What Is a Protective Factor? act by age 18 as a 10-year-old exposed to only one Research on risk factors for delinquency has prompted discussion and investigation into influences that may provide a buffer between the presence of risk factors and the onset of delinquency. These buffers are known as protective factors. Pollard, Hawkins, and Arthur (1999:146) note that “protective factors are those factors that mediate or moderate the effect of exposure to risk factors, resulting in reduced incidence of problem behavior.” Rutter (1987) believes that protective factors offset the onset of delinquency via four main processes: reducing risk, reducing negative chain reactions, establishing self-esteem and self-efficacy, and opening up opportunities. risk factor. Similarly, the age range or developmental period during which a youth is exposed to a specific risk factor is important to individuals working to tailor prevention programs to specific factors. Youth Violence: A Report of the Surgeon General (2001 (chapter 4)) elaborates: Violence prevention and intervention efforts hinge on identifying risk and protective factors and determining when in the course of development they emerge. To be effective, such efforts must be appropriate to a youth’s stage of development. A program that is effective in childhood may be ineffective in adolescence and vice versa. Moreover, the risk and protective factors targeted by violence prevention may be different from those targeted by intervention programs which are designed to prevent the recurrence of violence. Researchers disagree about what constitutes a protective factor. Protective factors “have been viewed both as the absence of risk and something conceptually distinct from it” (Office of the Surgeon General, 2001 (chapter 4)). The former view looks at risk and protective factors as opposite ends of a continuum. For example, excellent performance in school might be considered a protective factor because it is the opposite of poor performance in school—a known risk factor. The second view of protective factors sees them as “characteristics or conditions that interact with risk factors to reduce their influence on violent behavior” (Office of the Surgeon General, 2001 (chapter 4)). For example, poverty is often seen as a risk factor, but the presence of supportive, involved parents may mediate the negative influence of poverty to lessen a youth’s chance of becoming delinquent. The study of risk factors, therefore, is critical to the enhancement of prevention programs that frequently have limited staffing and funding. Identifying which risk factors may cause delinquency for particular Why Study Risk Factors? sets of youth at specific stages of their development may help programs target their efforts in a more Several juvenile justice researchers have linked risk efficient and cost-effective manner. The table on factors to delinquency (Hawkins et al., 1998; page 4, which was adapted from a report by the Lipsey and Derzon, 1998), and many have also Office of the Surgeon General, categorizes risk noted a multiplicative effect if several risk factors factors by age of onset of delinquency and identifies are present. Herrenkohl and colleagues (2000) corresponding protective factors. report that a 10-year-old exposed to six or more 3

  4. Risk Factors for Delinquency: An Overview Risk and Protective Factors, by Domain Risk Factor Domain Early Onset (ages 6–11) Late Onset (ages 12–14) Protective Factor* Intolerant attitude toward deviance High IQ Being female Positive social orientation Perceived sanctions for transgressions Individual General offenses Substance use Being male Aggression** Hyperactivity Problem (antisocial) behavior Exposure to television violence Medical, physical problems Low IQ Antisocial attitudes, beliefs Dishonesty** General offenses Restlessness Difficulty concentrating** Risk taking Aggression** Being male Physical violence Antisocial attitudes, beliefs Crimes against persons Problem (antisocial) behavior Low IQ Substance use Family Low socioeconomic status/poverty Antisocial parents Poor parent-child relationship Harsh, lax, or inconsistent discipline Broken home Separation from parents Other conditions Abusive parents Neglect Poor parent-child relationship Harsh or lax discipline Poor monitoring, supervision Low parental involvement Antisocial parents Broken home Low socioeconomic status/poverty Abusive parents Family conflict** Warm, supportive relationships with parents or other adults Parents’ positive evaluation of peers Parental monitoring School Poor attitude, performance Poor attitude, performance Academic failure Commitment to school Recognition for involvement in conventional activities Peer group Weak social ties Antisocial peers Weak social ties Antisocial, delinquent peers Gang membership Friends who engage in conventional behavior Community Neighborhood crime, drugs Neighborhood disorganization * Age of onset not known. ** Males only. Source: Adapted from Office of the Surgeon General, 2001. 4

  5. Risk Factors for Delinquency: An Overview Description of Risk Factors However, some of the evidence regarding the association between pregnancy and delivery complications and delinquency has been conflicting Various researchers categorize risk factors in (Hawkins et al., 1998). For example, neither different ways. For the purposes of this article, risk Denno’s (1990) study of Philadelphia youth nor factors fall under three broad categories: Farrington’s (1997) Cambridge study found a individual, social, and community. Each of these connection between pregnancy and delivery categories includes several subcategories (e.g., complications and violence. Mednick and Kandel family- and peer-related risk factors are grouped (1988) linked pregnancy and delivery complications under the social category). Because an exhaustive to violent behavior, but not to nonviolent criminal review of all known risk factors linked to behavior. In addition, some studies have shown that delinquency is beyond the scope of this article,3the children whose mothers smoked cigarettes following summarizes the major risk factors frequently during pregnancy were more likely to associated with juvenile delinquency and violence. display conduct disorders and other problem behaviors (Fergusson, Horwood, and Lynskey, Individual-Level Factors 1993; Wakschlag et al., 1997). Although the results are inconsistent, the available data illustrate the Prenatal and perinatal factors. Several studies need to study further the relationship between have linked prenatal and perinatal complications prenatal care, delivery complications, and the with later delinquent or criminal behavior (Kandel resulting health problems and juvenile delinquency et al., 1989; Kandel and Mednick, 1991; Raine, (Hawkins et al., 1998). Brennan, and Mednick, 1994). Prenatal and perinatal complications can lead to a range of Psychological, behavioral, and mental health problems that negatively influence characteristics. Several individual-specific development (McCord, Widom, and Crowell, characteristics are linked to delinquency. Tremblay 2001). In a prospective study of youth at high risk and LeMarquand (2001:141) remarked that “the for delinquency, Kandel and Mednick (1991) found best social behavior characteristic to predict that 80 percent of violent offenders rated high in delinquent behavior before age 13 appears to be delivery complications compared with 47 percent aggression.” In addition, Hawkins and colleagues of nonoffenders. (1998:113) reviewed several studies and reported “a 3For a complete review of risk factors, see chapter 3 in Juvenile Crime, Juvenile Justice (McCord, Widom, and Crowell, 2001). 5

  6. Risk Factors for Delinquency: An Overview positive relationship between hyperactivity, (Austin, 1978; Crockett, Eggebeen, and Hawkins, concentration or attention problems, impulsivity 1993). Some research has shown that children from and risk taking and later violent behavior.” Low families with four or more children have an verbal IQ and delayed language development have increased chance of offending (Wasserman and both been linked to delinquency; these links remain Seracini, 2001; West and Farrington, 1973). even after controlling for race and class (Moffitt, Peer influences. Several studies have found a Lynam, and Silva, 1994; Seguin et al., 1995). Similarly, problems at school can lead to consistent relationship between involvement in a delinquency. Herrenkohl and colleagues delinquent peer group and delinquent behavior. (2001:223) noted that “children with low academic Lipsey and Derzon (1998) noted that for youth ages performance, low commitment to school, and low 12–14, a key predictor variable for delinquency is educational aspirations during the elementary and the presence of antisocial peers. According to middle school grades are at higher risk for child McCord and colleagues (2001:80), “Factors such as delinquency than are other children.” peer delinquent behavior, peer approval of delinquent behavior, attachment or allegiance to Social Factors peers, time spent with peers, and peer pressure for deviance have all been associated with adolescent antisocial behavior.” Conversely, Elliot (1994) Family structure. Family characteristics such as reported that spending time with peers who poor parenting skills, family size, home discord, disapprove of delinquent behavior may curb later child maltreatment, and antisocial parents are risk violence. The influence of peers and their factors linked to juvenile delinquency (Derzon and acceptance of delinquent behavior is significant, Lipsey, 2000; Wasserman and Seracini, 2001). and this relationship is magnified when youth have McCord’s (1979) study of 250 boys found that little interaction with their parents (Steinberg, among boys at age 10, the strongest predictors of 1987). later convictions for violent offenses (up to age 45) were poor parental supervision, parental conflict, Community Factors and parental aggression, including harsh, punitive discipline. Some research has linked being raised in Farrington (2000:5) noted that “only in the 1990’s a single-parent family with increased delinquency have the longitudinal researchers begun to pay (McCord, Widom, and Crowell, 2001); however, sufficient attention to neighborhood and community when researchers control for socioeconomic factors, and there is still a great need for them to conditions, these differences are minimized 6

  7. Risk Factors for Delinquency: An Overview investigate immediate situational influences on residential turnover, allows criminal activity to go offending.” As described below, the environment unmonitored” (Herrenkohl et al., 2001:221). in which youth are reared can influence the Although researchers debate the interaction between likelihood of delinquency. environmental and personal factors, most agree that “living in a neighborhood where there are high School policies. The National Research Council levels of poverty and crime increases the risk of involvement in serious crime for all children and the Institute of Medicine reviewed the impact growing up there” (McCord, Widom, and Crowell, of school policies concerning grade retention,4 2001:89). suspension and expulsion, and school tracking of juvenile delinquency. These organizations reported Conclusion that such policies, which disproportionately affect minorities, have negative consequences for at-risk youth (McCord, Widom, and Crowell, 2001). For The risk factor paradigm is a promising approach to example, suspension and expulsion do not appear understanding the problem of juvenile delinquency. to reduce undesirable behavior, and both are linked The Program of Research on the Causes and to increased delinquent behavior. In addition, Correlates of Delinquency, partially funded by Heal’s (1978) cross-sectional study of primary and OJJDP, is one example of a longitudinal study of secondary schools in England found that large youth that is helping to detect the importance of schools with formal and severe punishment various risk factors for delinquency. Future research structures in place had more incidents of students should continue to study the interrelationships misbehaving. between risk factors and delinquency and attempt to clarify how risk factors interact to create a Neighborhood. Existing research points to a cumulative effect. Similarly, researchers should powerful connection between residing in an continue studying the interaction between risk and adverse environment and participating in criminal protective factors and exploring why some youth acts (McCord, Widom, and Crowell, 2001). exposed to multiple risk factors do not commit Sociological theories of deviance hypothesize that delinquent acts. “disorganized neighborhoods have weak social control networks; that weak social control, The development of the risk factor model, however, resulting from isolation among residents and high has its problems. Farrington (2000:16) remarks that “the main problems lie in the definition and 4Grade retention occurs when teachers hold students back a grade level at the end of the school year. identification of risk and protective factors, in 7

  8. Risk Factors for Delinquency: An Overview References establishing what are causes, in choosing interventions based on identified risk and protective factors, in evaluating multiple Austin, R.L. 1978. Race, father absence and female component and area-based interventions, and in delinquency. Criminology 15(4):487–504. assessing the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of components of interventions.” Coie, J.D., Watt, N.F., West, S.G., Hawkins, D., Asarnow, J.R., Markman, H.J., Ramey, S.L., Shure, One question confronting those who would develop M.B., and Long, B. 1993. The science of delinquency prevention programs based on risk prevention: A conceptual framework and some factor research is whether a given risk factor can directions for a national research program. easily be changed. For example, research has American Psychologist 48(10):1013–1022. shown that low socioeconomic status is associated with increased levels of delinquency. Although Crockett, L.J., Eggebeen, D.J., and Hawkins, A.J. socioeconomic conditions may be hard to change, 1993. Father’s presence and young children’s programs may seek to increase certain protective behavioral and cognitive adjustment. Journal of factors to offset the risk. Other risk factors are Family Issues 14(3):355–377. more amenable to change. Poor parenting, for example, can be addressed by programs that teach Denno, D.W. 1990. Biology and Violence: From parenting skills and provide family support Birth to Adulthood. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge services. University Press. The prevention of delinquency is a complex Derzon, J.H., and Lipsey, M.W. 2000. The problem with no simple solutions. Risk factor correspondence of family features with problem, analysis offers a way to determine which youth are aggressive, criminal and violent behavior. most likely to become delinquent. The approach Unpublished manuscript. Nashville, TN: Institute also allows practitioners to tailor prevention for Public Policy Studies, Vanderbilt University. programs to the unique needs of individual youth and communities. Elliott, D.S. 1994. Serious violent offenders: Onset, developmental course, and termination—The American Society of Criminology 1993 presidential address. Criminology 32(1):1–21. 8

  9. Risk Factors for Delinquency: An Overview Farrington, D.P. 1997. Early prediction of violent Farrington. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, and non-violent youthful offending. European pp. 211–246. Journal on Criminal Policy and Research 5(2):51–66. Herrenkohl, T.L., Maguin, E., Hill, K.G., Hawkins, J.D., Abbott, R.D., and Catalano, R.F. 2000. Farrington, D.P. 2000. Explaining and preventing Developmental risk factors for youth violence. crime: The globalization of knowledge—The Journal of Adolescent Health 26(7):176–186. American Society of Criminology 1999 presidential address. Criminology 38(1):1–24. Kandel, E., Brennan, P.A., Mednick, S.A., and Michelson, N.M. 1989. Minor psychical anomalies Fergusson, D.M., Horwood, L.J., and Lynskey, and recidivistic adult violent criminal behavior. M.T. 1993. Maternal smoking before and after Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavia 79:103–107. pregnancy: Effects on behavioral outcomes in middle childhood. Pediatrics 92(6):815–822. Kandel, E., and Mednick, S.A. 1991. Perinatal complications predict violent offending. Hawkins, J.D., Herrenkohl, T.L., Farrington, D.P., Criminology 29(3):519–529. Brewer, D., Catalano, R.F., and Harachi, T.W. 1998. A review of predictors of youth violence. In Kazdin, A.E., Kraemer, H.C., Kessler, R.C., Kupfer, D.J., and Offord, D.R. 1997. Contributions of risk Serious and Violent Juvenile Offenders: Risk Factors and Successful Interventions, edited by R. factor research to developmental psychopathology. Loeber and D.P. Farrington. Thousand Oaks, CA: Clinical Psychology Review 17:375–406. Sage Publications, pp. 106–146. Lipsey, M.W., and Derzon, J.H. 1998. Predictors of Heal, K. 1978. Misbehavior among school violent or serious delinquency in adolescence and children: The roles of the school in strategies for early adulthood: A synthesis of longitudinal prevention. Policy and Politics 6:321–332. research. In Serious and Violent Juvenile Offenders: Risk Factors and Successful Interventions, edited by Herrenkohl, T.L., Hawkins, J.D., Chung, I., Hill, R. Loeber and D.P. Farrington. Thousand Oaks, K.G., and Battin-Pearson, S. 2001. School and CA: Sage Publications, pp. 86–105. community risk factors and interventions. In Child McCord, J. 1979. Some child-rearing antecedents of Delinquents: Development, Intervention, and Service Needs, edited by R. Loeber and D.P. criminal behavior in adult men. Journal of 9

  10. Risk Factors for Delinquency: An Overview Mrazek, P.J., and Haggerty, R.J., eds. 1994. Personality and Social Psychology 37(9):1477–1486. Reducing Risks for Mental Disorders: Frontiers for Preventative Intervention Research. Washington, McCord, J., Widom, C.S., and Crowell, N.A., eds. DC: National Academy Press. 2001. Juvenile Crime, Juvenile Justice. Panel on Office of the Surgeon General. 2001. Youth Juvenile Crime: Prevention, Treatment, and Control. Washington, DC: National Academy Violence: A Report of the Surgeon General. Press. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Secretary, Office of Mednick, S.A., and Kandel, E.S. 1988. Congenital Public Health and Science, Office of the Surgeon determinants of violence. Bulletin of the American General. Retrieved from www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/youthviolence. Academy of Psychiatry and the Law 16(2):101–109. Pollard, J.A., Hawkins, D., and Arthur, M.W. 1999. Mercy, J.A., and O’Carroll, P.W. 1998. New Risk and protective factors: Are both necessary to directions in violence prevention: The understand diverse behavioral outcomes in public health arena. Violence and Victims adolescence? Social Work Research 23(3):145–158. 3(4):285–301. Raine, A., Brennan, P., and Mednick, S.A. 1994. Moffitt, T.E., Lynam, D., and Silva, P.A. 1994. Birth complications combined with early maternal Neuropsychological tests predict persistent male rejection at age 1 year predispose to violent crime at delinquency. Criminology 32(2):101–124. age 18 years. Archives of General Psychiatry 53:544–549. Moore, M.H. 1995. Public health and criminal justice approaches to prevention. In Building a Rutter, M. 1987. Psychosocial resilience and protective mechanisms. American Journal of Safer Society: Strategic Approaches to Crime Prevention, edited by M. Tonry and D. Farrington. Orthopsychiatry 57(3):316–331. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. 10

  11. Risk Factors for Delinquency: An Overview Seguin, J.R., Pihl, R.O., Harden, P.W., Tremblay, Wakschlag, L.S., Lahey, B.B., Loeber, R., Green, R.E., and Boulrice, B. 1995. Cognitive and S.M., Gordon, R.A., and Leventhal, B.L. 1997. neuropsychological characteristics of psychically Maternal smoking during pregnancy and the risk of aggressive boys. Journal of Abnormal Psychology conduct disorder in boys. Archives of General 104(4):614–624. Psychiatry 54(7):670–676. Steinberg, L. 1987. Single parents, stepparents, and Wasserman, G.A., and Seracini, A.G. 2001. Family the susceptibility of adolescents to antisocial peer risk factors and interventions. In Child pressure. Child Development 58(1):269–275. Delinquents: Development, Intervention, and Service Needs, edited by R. Loeber and D.P. Tremblay, R.E., and LeMarquand, D. 2001. Farrington. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Individual risk and protective factors. In Child Publications, pp. 165–189. Delinquents: Development, Intervention, and Service Needs, edited by R. Loeber and D.P. West, D.J., and Farrington, D.P. 1973. Who Farrington. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Becomes Delinquent? London, England: Publications, pp. 137–164. Heinemann. 11