Juvenile Justice

“The Development of Criminal Style in Adolescence and Young Adulthood: Separating the Lemmings from the Loners” 

Goldweber Asha, et al.  (March 2011). Journal of Youth and Adolescence.  Accessed June 27, 2017 

Study Abstract: Despite broad consensus that most juvenile crimes are committed with peers, many questions regarding developmental and individual differences in criminal style (i.e., co-offending vs. solo offending) remain unanswered. Using prospective 3-year longitudinal data from 937 14- to 17-year-old serious male offenders, the present study investigates whether youths tend to offend alone, in groups, or a combination of the two; whether these patterns change with age; and whether youths who engage in a particular style share distinguishing characteristics. Trajectory analyses examining criminal styles over age revealed that, while most youth evinced both types of offending, two distinct groups emerged: an increasingly solo offender trajectory (83%); and a mixed style offender trajectory (17%). Alternate analyses revealed (5.5%) exclusively solo offenders (i.e., only committed solo offenses over 3 years). There were no significant differences between groups in individuals’ reported number of friends, quality of friendships, or extraversion. However, the increasingly solo and exclusively solo offenders reported more psychosocial maturity, lower rates of anxiety, fewer psychopathic traits, less gang involvement and less self reported offending than mixed style offenders. Findings suggest that increasingly and exclusively solo offenders are not loners, as they are sometimes portrayed, and that exclusively solo offending during adolescence, while rare and previously misunderstood, may not be a risk factor in and of itself.


Relating Clusters of Adolescent Problems to Adult Criminal Trajectories: a Person-Centered, Prospective Approach. 

Bosick Stacey, Bersani E. Bianca, and Farrington P. David. (June 2015). Journal of Developmental and Life-Course Criminology.  Accessed June 27, 2017

Study Abstract: Motivated by offender typology debates, we evaluate whether adult offending trajectories can be predicted from adolescent risk factors. Methods Drawing on data from the Cambridge Study in Delinquent Development (N = 411), we use person-centered, latent class cluster analysis (LCCA) to identify groups of respondents with similar behavioral, social, and psychological profiles measured in adolescence. We then use hierarchical linear models to estimate the criminal trajectories associated with each cluster using annual offending measures from 19 to 50 years of age. This offers a test of whether prospectively defined crime trajectories validate theoretical conceptions of qualitatively distinct offender groups. Results Our LCCA identified four clusters of boys with varying patterns of adolescent characteristics. The offending trajectories associated with these clusters differed in magnitude rather than shape. While we were able to identify a subgroup of offenders whose criminal offending remained relatively high over the life course, significant differences across subgroups were varied and dissipated after young adulthood. All offending trajectories followed the familiar age-crime curve, characterized by a sharp decline in offending in early adulthood. Conclusions Our findings support multidimensional interventions that would offset the constellations of behavioral, psychological, and social setbacks adolescents face. At the same time, our findings undermine the notion that qualitatively distinct patterns of offending can be prospectively identified and suggest that the processes behind criminal decline over the life course are generalizable across offenders.


Childhood Predictors of Desistance and Level of Persistence in Offending in Early Onset Offenders. 

L. van Domburgh et al. (June 2009). Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology. Accessed June 27, 2017

Study Abstract: Childhood predictors of adolescent offending careers were studied in 310 boys from the longitudinal Pittsburgh Youth Study who started offending prior to age 12. Three main groups were distinguished: serious persisters (n = 95), moderately serious persisters (n = 117), desisters (n = 63), and an intermittent group (n = 35). Group membership was predicted using risk and promotive factors measured in childhood. Serious and moderately serious persisters could be distinguished well from desisters (29.2% and 32.3% explained variance). Distinction between the two persister groups proved somewhat more difficult (20.9% explained variance). More serious persisters than desisters showed disruptive behavior, while moderately serious persisters fell in between. Further, more moderately serious persisters were marked by social disadvantage. Family involvement, small family and positive peer relationships were promotive of desistance. Concluding, early onset offenders show considerable heterogeneity in their adolescent offending careers which seem to some extent to be predicted by different sets of risk and promotive factors.


The Adolescence–Adulthood Transition and Desistance from Crime: Examining the Underlying Structure of Desistance. 

Lussier Patrick, McCuish Evan, and Corrado Raymond R. (June 2015). Journal of Developmental and Life-Course Criminology.  Accessed June 27, 2017

Study Abstract: Describing and explaining desistance in special categories of juvenile offenders, such as chronic, serious, violent, and sexual offenders, represents a challenge for researchers and practitioners alike. In fact, there is little agreement as to how to best define and measure desistance from crime. In the current study, four conceptualizations of desistance are examined with a sample of 349 incarcerated juvenile offenders. Based on longitudinal data measured from age 12 to 23, desistance was examined through four modeling strategies. Results highlighted inconsistencies in classifying offenders as desisters/persisters across the modeling strategies used. Of importance, following the transition into adulthood, evidence suggests that most of these individuals were not on a life-course pattern of serious, violent, and sexual offending but rather at different stages of desistance. Based on the study findings, a unified model of desistance is proposed to describe and explain desistance from crime among juvenile offenders.


A Comprehensive Technical Package for the Prevention of Youth Violence and Associated Risk Behaviors. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Holman, Barry and Ziedenberg, Jason. A Justice Policy Institute Report. June 2011.

Abstract: This technical package represents a select group of strategies based on the best available evidence to help communities and states sharpen their focus on prevention activities with the greatest potential to prevent youth violence and its consequences. These strategies include promoting family environments that support healthy development; providing quality education early in life; strengthening youth’s skills; connecting youth to caring adults and activities; creating protective community environments; and intervening to lessen harms and prevent future risk. The strategies represented in this package include those with a focus on preventing youth violence from happening in the first place as well as approaches to reduce the immediate and long-term harms of youth violence in order to prevent future violence. Preventing youth violence requires multiple, complementary strategies, and those outlined in the package reflect the mature research-base about how to strengthen individual’s skills and relationships to prevent youth violence.  It also includes promising evidence about ways to address broader community issues that affect the likelihood of youth violence.

The Dangers of Detention: The Impact of Incarcerating Youth in Detention and Other Secure Facilities.

David-Ferdon, C., Vivolo-Kantor, A. M., Dahlberg, L. L., Marshall, K. J., Rainford, N. & Hall, J. E. (2016).

Abstract: This policy brief looks at the consequences of detention on young people, their families, and communities. This policy brief shows that, given the new findings that detaining youth may not make communities safer, the costs of needlessly detaining young people who do not need to be there are simply too high. Policymakers, instead, should look to detention reform as a means to reduce the number of young people needlessly detained, and reinvest the savings in juvenile interventions proven to reduce recidivism and crime, and that can help build healthy and safe communities.

Podcast: A Trauma-Informed Approach to Reducing Youth Violence: The Center for Court Innovation Podcast. 

Summary: The podcast covers the mentorship program, Children in Trauma Intervention (“CITI”) led by the Cincinnati police department. The podcast is part of a series focusing on reducing violence and improving health outcomes for at-risk youth at nine national sites that belong to the Minority Youth Violence Prevention Initiative.

Trajectories of antisocial behavior and psychosocial maturity from adolescence to young adulthood.
Monahan, K.C., et al. (2009).   Developmental Psychology 45(6); 1654-1668

Theory and research on desistance from antisocial activity among serious adolescent offenders.

Mulvey, et al (2004). Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice 2(3): 213-236. Accessed August 19, 2016.

Abstract: The study examined trajectories of antisocial behavior among “serious” juvenile offenders from 14 through 22 years of age and tested how impulse control, suppression of aggression, future orientation, consideration of others, personal responsibility, and resistance to peer influence distinguished between youths who persisted in antisocial behavior versus those who refrained.


Young Adult Justice: A New Frontier Worth Exploring.
Velazquez, Tracy, The Chronicle of Social Change. (May 2013). Accessed August 18, 2016.

Summary: Young adults aged 18 to 24 are sent to prison for violent and property crimes more often than any other age group. Although they make up about ten percent of the total population, this age group accounts for over 29 percent of arrests. U.S. justice systems should explore creating a third court process for young adults, one that balances the need for accountability with the reality that jeopardizing the future of young lawbreakers from becoming career criminals and becoming part of the cycle of intergenerational poverty.

Theory and research on desistance from antisocial activity among serious adolescent offenders.

Scott W. Henggeler & Sonja K. Schoenwald. Society for Research in Child Development. Vol. 25, No. 1 (2011). Accessed March 8, 2018

Abstract: In a context where more than 1,000,000 American adolescents are processed by juvenile courts annually and approximately 160,000 are sent to residential placements, this paper examines “what works” and “what doesn’t work” in reducing the criminal behavior of juvenile offenders and presents examples of government initiatives that have successfully promoted the adoption, implementation, and sustainability of evidence-based interventions for juvenile offenders. In general, the vast majority of current juvenile justice services has little empirical support or exacerbates antisocial behavior. These include processing by the juvenile justice system (e.g., probation), juvenile transfer laws, surveillance, shock incarceration, and residential placements (e.g., boot camps, group homes, incarceration). On the other hand, several effective treatment programs have been validated in rigorous research. Effective programs address key risk factors (e.g., improving family functioning, decreasing association with deviant peers), are rehabilitative in nature, use behavioral interventions within the youth’s natural environment, are well specified, and include intensive support for intervention fidelity. Although only 5% of eligible high-risk offenders are treated with an evidence-based intervention annually, inroads to the larger scale use of evidence-based treatments have been made in recent years through federal (e.g., Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) and state (e.g., Washington, Ohio, Connecticut, Florida) policy initiatives. Based on our experience transporting an evidence-based treatment within the context of these initiatives, recommendations are made to facilitate stakeholder efforts to improve the quality and effectiveness of rehabilitative services available to juvenile offenders.

Supervision trajectories of male juvenile offenders: growth mixture modeling on SAVRY risk assessments.

Ed L. B. Hilterman, Ilja L. Bongers,, Tonia L. Nicholls and Chijs van Nieuwenhuizen. Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health (February 2018) 201812:15. Accessed March 8, 2018

Abstract: Structured risk/need assessment tools are increasingly used to orientate risk reduction strategies with juvenile offenders. The assumption is that the risk/need items on these tools are sufficiently sensitive to measure changes in the individual, family and/or contextual characteristics of juvenile offenders. However, there is very little research demonstrating the capacity of these tools to measure changes in juvenile offenders. Congruent with the developmental and life-course criminology theories (DLC) the objective of this study is to explore the existence of heterogeneous trajectories of juvenile offenders across the juvenile justice system as measured through five empirical risk/need areas based on the Structured Assessment of Violence Risk in Youth (SAVRY), one of the most widely applied risk assessment tools for juveniles.  This longitudinal study included 5205 male juvenile offenders who transitioned through the Catalan juvenile justice system between 2006 and 2014. During intervention they received at least two, and a maximum of seven, consecutive SAVRY risk/need assessments over an 18-month period. The heterogeneity of latent class trajectories was explored through growth mixture modeling (GMM). The trajectory class membership was linked to covariates through multinomial logistic regression analyses. Through GMM three to four heterogeneous trajectories, with high quality of separation, were identified in each of the risk/need areas. The trajectories with low risk/needs (45–77% of the sample) remained low and presented a very limited increase in risk/needs during the 18-month period. The high risk/need trajectories (20–37% of the sample) showed a limited decrease or no change. Between 5 and 13% of the sample had large reductions in their risk/needs levels, and approximately 5% showed a large increase in risk/needs. In line with the DLC theories this study shows that trajectories on criminogenic risk/needs can be heterogeneous and indicate distinct rates of change over time. The results of this study also may suggest a limited sensibility to measure change over time of SAVRY’s risk and protective items. Suggestions to improve the sensitivity of measuring change over time, such as shorter time frames or future-oriented time frames for the scoring of the items, are offered.

Gender differences in the trends and correlates of major depressive episodes among juvenile offenders in the United States.

Katherine J. Holzer et al. Comprehensive Psychiatry 80 (2018) 72–80. Accessed March 8, 2018

Abstract: Purpose: Although it is well-established that juvenile offenders are at an elevated risk for depression and that, within this group, females have the highest risk, little is known regarding the trends in the prevalence of depression among juvenile offenders in the United States. In the present study, we systematically examine secular trends in major depressive episodes (MDE) and their correlates among male and female juvenile offenders and non-offenders in the United States. Methods: Data were collected between 2005 and 2014 as part of the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). The NSDUH uses multistage area probability sampling methods to select a representative sample of the civilian, non-institutionalized population in the United States. Participants included 171,118 youth aged 12–17 (159,449 non-offenders and 11,669 offenders). The primary variable of interest was self-reported past year MDE. Logistic regression assessed whether sociodemographic factors and psychosocial and behavioral correlates affected the risk of MDE. Results: Between 2005 and 2014, the prevalence of MDE among female youth increased for both offender and non-offender groups: from 24.4% to 33.0% for the offenders and from 12.4% to 16.7% for the non-offenders. No significant trend changes were observed among male youth. In both male and female juvenile offenders, MDEs were associated with increased risk of illicit drug use (males OR = 1.61, 95% CI = 1.18–2.18; females OR = 1.83, 95% CI = 1.45–2.31). Additional correlates include alcohol use among male offenders (OR = 1.36, 95% CI = 1.01–1.83), and binge drinking in female offenders (OR = 1.24, 95% CI = 1.02–1.49). Conclusions: The prevalence of past year major depressive episodes is increasing for female juvenile offenders, highlighting a need for improved efforts to target these populations for prevention and treatment.