Criminology Juvenile Delinquency
by
Terrance J. Taylor
  • LAST MODIFIED: 14 December 2009
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396607-0026

Introduction

Juvenile delinquency has received substantial recognition as a pressing social problem. What is encompassed by the term “juvenile delinquency,” however, is quite broad. Thus, various texts on “juvenile delinquency” may often focus on different topical issues. For example, some may examine serious and persistent youth violence, while others may focus on programs designed to prevent youth from engaging in more benign, everyday disorderly activities. In addition to general overviews and theoretical foundations of juvenile delinquency, the following readings are organized into key domains of risk or protective factors associated with delinquency. Specifically, topical areas include family, schools, peers, and community factors. Additionally, race, ethnicity, and delinquency are intertwined (although not always in the way that people expect). Finally, efforts to prevent and respond to juvenile delinquency are examined.

General Overviews

A number of excellent texts providing overviews of juvenile delinquency as a social problem exist. Some of these—for example, Shoemaker 2005—focus on theoretical approaches for understanding the etiology of delinquency; others, such as Snyder and Sickmund 2006, are purely descriptive, while still others, such as Howell 2003, provide an important link between theory and policy. Consistent with a perception of an emergent “youth violence epidemic” and an emphasis on targeting serious, violent, and chronic juvenile offenders during the late 1990s and early 2000s, a number of relevant works emerged during this period. Thus, Howell, et al. 1995 and Loeber and Farrington 1998 provide excellent entrees into these areas. Similarly, a concern about increasing delinquency among very young offenders (those younger than twelve years old) provides the context for Loeber and Farrington 2001. Tonry and Moore 1998 is a compilation of essays on youth-violence research and policy written by top scholars, providing an excellent introduction to the topic. Regardless of their emphases or scope, the following texts provide thorough coverage for those interested in learning more about juvenile delinquency.

  • Howell, James C. 2003. Preventing and reducing juvenile delinquency: A comprehensive framework. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage

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    An excellent book examining history, trends, and anti-delinquency programs. Packed with detailed coverage of the issues, couched within the “Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Comprehensive Strategy,” this book is a must-read for undergraduate and graduate students, but also very useful for policymakers.

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    • Howell, James C., Barry Krisberg, J. David Hawkins, and John J. Wilson, eds. 1995. Serious, violent, and chronic juvenile offenders: A sourcebook. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage

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      A compilation of research studies examining serious, chronic, and violent juvenile offenders. Examines patterns and trends, risk factors, and strategies associated with the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s Comprehensive Strategy for dealing with these youth.

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      • Loeber, Rolf, and David P. Farrington, eds. 1998. Serious and violent juvenile offenders: Risk factors and successful interventions. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage

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        Another excellent compilation of studies associated with serious and violent juvenile offenders. Provides detailed information about the issue and ways in which society responds.

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        • Loeber, Rolf, and David P. Farrington, eds. 2001. Child delinquents: Development, intervention, and service needs. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage

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          A comprehensive introduction to research on young delinquents. Coverage of topics ranges from known risk factors to prevention and intervention programs aimed at child delinquents.

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          • Shoemaker, Donald J. 2005. Theories of delinquency: An examination of explanations of delinquent behavior. 5th ed. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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            A very good undergraduate- or graduate-level text providing a comprehensive introduction to theories of juvenile delinquency.

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            • Snyder, Howard N., and Melissa Sickmund. 2006. Juvenile offenders and victims: 2006 national report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

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              A publication from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention providing facts and figures about American juvenile offending and victimization. The definitive government source for recent figures. Available online.

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              • Tonry, Michael, and Mark H. Moore. 1998. Crime and justice: A review of research. Vol. 24, Youth violence. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                A collection of essays from the leaders in the field. This volume focuses specifically on the problem of youth violence.

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                Theoretical Foundations

                The study of delinquency has progressed over time, fostered by increased interest during periods when delinquency is perceived to be changing in nature or scope. For example, Platt 1977 provides an important historical critique, showing how delinquency was “invented” by well-intentioned philanthropists involved in the social work movement in the early 1900s. Other classic readings include key theoretical advances, such as Shaw and McKay 1969, an introduction of social disorganization; Hirschi’s control theory (Hirschi 1969); Sykes and Matza’s ideas of neutralizations and drift (Sykes and Matza 1957; Matza 1964); and Elliott and colleagues’ integrated theoretical approach (Elliott, et al. 1985). Elliott, et al. 1989 illustrates that delinquency cannot be understood in a vacuum—rather, it often overlaps with other problems.

                • Elliott, Delbert S., David Huizinga, and Susanne S. Ageton. 1985. Explaining delinquency and drug use. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage

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                  Examines information collected from the National Youth Survey to discern patterns of delinquency and drug use. An integrated model of delinquency is presented and tested. Based on one of the largest federally funded “pure research” studies.

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                  • Elliott, Delbert S., David Huizinga, and Scott Menard. 1989. Multiple problem youth: Delinquency, substance use, and mental health problems. New York: Springer-Verlag.

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                    Uses data collected from the National Youth Survey to examine the overlap between multiple problems of delinquency, drug use, and mental health issues. Provides useful information about the reasons for these problems and risk factors that should be targeted for successful prevention and intervention.

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                    • Hirschi, Travis. 1969. Causes of delinquency. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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                      The seminal work on control theory, which has shaped research and policy since its inception.

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                      • Matza, David. 1964. Delinquency and drift. New York: John Wiley and Sons.

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                        A study of how youth “drift” into and out of delinquency. Presents information about the transience of delinquency and implications of this approach.

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                        • Miller, Walter B. 1958. Lower class culture as a generating milieu of gang delinquency. Journal of Social Issues 14:5–19.

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                          A study examining how lower-class culture provides a suitable context for the development of gangs and delinquent behavior. Focuses on how the values held by members of lower-class culture affect behavior

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                          • Platt, Anthony M. 1977. The child savers: The invention of delinquency. 2d ed. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                            A critical look at how history and good intentions “invented” and shaped the phenomenon of juvenile delinquency. An excellent book for graduate students.

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                            • Shaw, Clifford R., and Henry D. McKay. 1969. Juvenile delinquency and urban areas: A study of rates of delinquency in relation to differential characteristics of local communities in American cities. 2d ed. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                              A must-read for anyone interested in how and why macrolevel processes and cultural differences produce different rates of delinquency in cities. Spawned considerable interest in ideas of social disorganization and cultural debates about delinquency.

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                              • Sykes, Gresham M., and David Matza. 1957. Techniques of neutralization: A theory of delinquency. American Sociological Review 22.6: 664–670.

                                DOI: 10.2307/2089195E-mail Citation »

                                Provides a theory of how youth use “techniques of neutralization” allowing them to engage in delinquency under certain circumstances. Ties in well with Matza 1964.

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                                Families and Delinquency

                                The family is a key social institution and thus is inextricably linked with juvenile delinquency. While delinquency is often viewed as “starting with the family,” several studies have explored how families influence delinquency. These studies often focus on different aspects of the family, such as the role of “broken homes” and single-parent households (see Matsueda and Heimer 1987 and Wells and Rankin 1991). Others, such as Patterson and Stouthamer-Loeber 1984, focus on the role of family processes, regardless of family structure. Still others, such as Cernkovich and Giordano 1987, Fagan and Wexler 1987, Laub and Sampson 1988, and Patterson and Stouthamer-Loeber 1984, focus on multiple dimensions of family functioning. Two excellent overviews of how family influence and delinquency are linked are Loeber and Stouthamer-Loeber 1986 and Simons, et al. 2004.

                                • Cernkovich, Stephen A., and Peggy C. Giordano. 1987. Family relationships and delinquency. Criminology 25:295–319.

                                  DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-9125.1987.tb00799.xE-mail Citation »

                                  A study examining how different dimensions of family (control/supervision, caring/trust, communication) affect delinquency. Examines these dimensions for the entire youth sample and by sex and race subgroups.

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                                  • Fagan, Jeffrey, and Sandra Wexler. 1987. Family origins of violent delinquents. Criminology 25:643–670.

                                    DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-9125.1987.tb00814.xE-mail Citation »

                                    Another excellent study of how family dimensions affect violence. Illustrates the importance of how family factors differ during different stages of adolescence and how family influences are shaped by other important factors.

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                                    • Laub, John H., and Robert J. Sampson. 1988. Unraveling families and delinquency: A reanalysis of the Gluecks’ data. Criminology 26:355–380.

                                      DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-9125.1988.tb00846.xE-mail Citation »

                                      An analysis of data collected from a large-scale project conducted in the early 1900s. Examines how different aspects of families affect delinquency.

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                                      • Loeber, Rolf, and Magda Stouthamer-Loeber. 1986. Family factors as correlates and predictors of juvenile conduct problems and delinquency. In Crime and justice: A review of research. Vol. 7. Edited by Michael Tonry, 29–149. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                                        A comprehensive look at research exploring how different family characteristics affect delinquency. The “go-to” piece for those looking for an introduction to the topic.

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                                        • Matsueda, Ross L., and Karen Heimer. 1987. Race, family structure, and delinquency: A test of differential association and social control theories. American Sociological Review 52:826–840.

                                          DOI: 10.2307/2095837E-mail Citation »

                                          A study exploring how delinquency varies by race and family composition. Provides information useful for both theorists and practitioners.

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                                          • Patterson, Gerald R., and Magda Stouthamer-Loeber. 1984. The correlation of family management practices and delinquency. Child Development 55:1299–1307.

                                            DOI: 10.2307/1129999E-mail Citation »

                                            A study illustrating the how different types of parenting practices affect delinquency.

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                                            • Simons, Ronald L., Leslie Gordon Simons, and Lora Ebert Wallace. 2004. Families, delinquency, and crime: Linking society’s most basic institution to antisocial behavior. Los Angeles: Roxbury.

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                                              A book tying together research on family and delinquency from a variety of disciplinary perspectives. Easy to read and comprehensive.

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                                              • Wells, L. Edward, and Joseph H. Rankin. 1991. Families and delinquency: A meta-analysis of the impact of broken homes. Social Problems 38:71–93.

                                                DOI: 10.1525/sp.1991.38.1.03a00050E-mail Citation »

                                                Provides a thorough overview of the research examining the influence of broken homes on youth delinquency.

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                                                Schools and Delinquency

                                                As youth (even delinquent youth) spend much of their time in schools, it is also important to understand how this social institution is related to delinquency. Gottfredson 2001 provides the most comprehensive overview of this topic and should serve as a starting point for those interested in schools and delinquency (especially as related to delinquency prevention efforts; see Anti-Delinquency Programs and Policies). Updated information on the extent of violence in schools is provided annually in Indicators of School Crime and Safety. Other studies, such as Elliott and Voss 1974 and Maguin and Loeber 1996, explore mechanisms by which school problems are associated with delinquency. Alternatively, Hawkins, et al. 1999 and Payne, et al. 2003 explain successful approaches to reducing delinquency. Cernkovich and Giordano 1992 examines the critical links among race, schools, and delinquency.

                                                • Cernkovich, Stephen A., and Peggy C. Giordano. 1992. School bonding, race, and delinquency. Criminology 30:261–291.

                                                  DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-9125.1992.tb01105.xE-mail Citation »

                                                  An important study examining racial differences in how school bonding affects delinquency. Provides information relevant to race-specific programming.

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                                                  • Elliott, Delbert S., and Harwin L. Voss. 1974. Delinquency and dropout. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books.

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                                                    An excellent study of Southern California high school students, examining the overlap of delinquency and school dropout. Examines multiple explanations for two serious youth problems.

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                                                    • Gottfredson, Denise C. 2001. Schools and delinquency. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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                                                      The most comprehensive book available examining the link between delinquency and schools. Focuses on how different school-based prevention programs operate and the mechanisms separating those that are successful from those that are not.

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                                                      • Hawkins, J. David, Richard F. Catalano, Rick Kosterman, Robert Abbott, and Karl G. Hill. 1999. Preventing adolescent health-risk behaviors by strengthening protection during childhood. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine 153:226–234.

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                                                        An important look at how school (and other key factors) helps to prevent juvenile delinquency.

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                                                        • Indicators of School Crime and Safety 2008.

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                                                          An annual report compiled by the National Center for Education Statistics and the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Provides information about the nature and scope of violence in schools.

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                                                          • Maguin, Eugene, and Rolf Loeber. 1996. Academic performance and delinquency. In Crime and justice: A review of research. Vol. 20. Edited by Michael Tonry and Mark H. Moore, 145–264. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                                                            An excellent overview of the research related to school performance and its effects on delinquency. Thorough coverage of prior studies and discussion of the issue.

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                                                            • Payne, Allison Ann, Denise C. Gottfredson, and Gary D. Gottfredson. 2003. Schools as communities: The relationships among communal school organization, student bonding, and school disorder. Criminology 41:749–778.

                                                              DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-9125.2003.tb01003.xE-mail Citation »

                                                              An important study examining the effects of how school structures affect school-related delinquency. Excellent coverage of the “schools within schools” configuration movement.

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                                                              Peers and Delinquency

                                                              Youths’ friends play an integral role in delinquency, and several key studies have examined this relationship. Giordano, et al. 1986 and Patterson and Dishion 1985 provide excellent introductions to the topic. Elliott and Menard 1996 and Warr 1993 illustrate how the importance of peers varies at different stages of adolescent development. Haynie 2001, Haynie and Osgood 2005, and Osgood and Anderson 2004 examine how youths’ involvement with peers fosters involvement in delinquency.

                                                              • Elliott, Delbert S., and Scott Menard. 1996. Delinquent friends and delinquent behavior: Temporal and developmental patterns. In Delinquency and crime: Current theories. Edited by J. David Hawkins, 28–67. Cambridge, UK, and New York: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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                                                                A study examining how delinquent peers affect youths’ own delinquent behavior and how delinquent behavior affects association with delinquent peers. Examined within the framework of adolescent development.

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                                                                • Giordano, Peggy C., Stephen A. Cernkovich, and M. D. Pugh. 1986. Friendships and delinquency. American Journal of Sociology 91:1170–1202.

                                                                  DOI: 10.1086/228390E-mail Citation »

                                                                  An excellent study of how friendships facilitate or reduce delinquency during adolescence.

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                                                                  • Haynie, Dana L. 2001. Delinquent peers revisited: Does network structure matter? American Journal of Sociology 106:1013–1057.

                                                                    DOI: 10.1086/320298E-mail Citation »

                                                                    A study of how peer networks influence delinquency. Examines the importance of factors such as popularity with peers and centrality in the peer network as key influences.

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                                                                    • Haynie, Dana L., and D. Wayne Osgood. 2005. Reconsidering peers and delinquency: How do peers matter? Social Forces 84:1109–1130.

                                                                      DOI: 10.1353/sof.2006.0018E-mail Citation »

                                                                      A study focusing on the mechanisms by which friends affect youths’ own involvement in delinquency. Provides useful contributions to both theory and measurement.

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                                                                      • Osgood, D. Wayne, and Amy L. Anderson. 2004. Unstructured socializing and rates of delinquency. Criminology 42:519–550.

                                                                        DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-9125.2004.tb00528.xE-mail Citation »

                                                                        An important study examining how youths’ unstructured leisure activities facilitate involvement in delinquency. Illustrates the mechanisms by which youths’ involvement with friends affects their behavior.

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                                                                        • Patterson, Gerald L., and Thomas J. Dishion. 1985. Contributions of families and peers to delinquency. Criminology 23:63–79.

                                                                          DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-9125.1985.tb00326.xE-mail Citation »

                                                                          A rigorous examination of the relationship between families, friends, and youths’ own delinquent behavior. Provides a useful description of how clinical interventions can facilitate research on delinquency.

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                                                                          • Warr, Mark. 1993. Age, peers, and delinquency. Criminology 31:17–40.

                                                                            DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-9125.1993.tb01120.xE-mail Citation »

                                                                            A key study examining how the importance of peers in facilitating delinquency varies during adolescence.

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                                                                            Communities and Delinquency

                                                                            Since the publication of Shaw and McKay 1969 (see Theoretical Foundations), scholars have been interested in how delinquency varies across communities in terms of amount and type. Several notable studies have examined how communities shape delinquency. Kornhauser 1978 is a useful starting point for outlining the basic tenets of social disorganization theory and how they can be tested. This perspective is expanded in Bursik and Grasmick 1993, which also provides useful policy recommendations for community-level interventions. Others, such as Elliott, et al. 1996; Simcha-Fagan and Schwarz 1986; and Wickström and Loeber 2000, examine how community characteristics affect adolescent development of attitudes and behaviors. Gottfredson, et al. 1991 and Bellair, et al 2003 examine how neighborhood structure affects other local institutions and how these, in turn, affect delinquency. Osgood and Chambers 2000 extends the ecological approach to an examination of youth violence outside of cities. Taken together, these studies provide a solid overview of the multifaceted connections of communities and crime.

                                                                            • Bellair, Paul E., Vincent J. Roscigno, and Thomas L. McNulty. 2003. Linking local labor market opportunity to violent adolescent delinquency. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 40:6–33.

                                                                              DOI: 10.1177/0022427802239252E-mail Citation »

                                                                              A study of how local labor markets affect youth violence in cities. Examines how the effect of labor markets is conditioned by other key factors, such as schools and connections to others.

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                                                                              • Bursik, Robert J., Jr., and Harold G. Grasmick, eds. 1993. Neighborhoods and crime: The dimensions of effective community control. New York: Lexington Books.

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                                                                                An excellent book advancing social disorganization theory. Focuses on how neighborhoods affect delinquency and crime through differences in the use of formal and informal social control. Provides policy recommendations that are aimed at the community level.

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                                                                                • Elliott, Delbert S., William Julius Wilson, David Huizinga, Robert J. Sampson, Amanda Elliott, and Bruce Rankin. 1996. The effects of neighborhood disadvantage on adolescent development. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 33:389–426.

                                                                                  DOI: 10.1177/0022427896033004002E-mail Citation »

                                                                                  An important look at how neighborhood context (particularly factors associated with neighborhood disadvantage) affects youth development and youth behaviors. Based on research conducted in Chicago and Denver.

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                                                                                  • Gottfredson, Denise C., Richard J. McNeil III, and Gary D. Gottfredson. 1991. Social area influences on delinquency: A multilevel analysis. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 28:197–226.

                                                                                    DOI: 10.1177/0022427891028002005E-mail Citation »

                                                                                    A study of how neighborhood influences affect youth delinquency and factors related to youth delinquency (such as schools, families, and peers). Provides an important look at how factors differ for boys and girls.

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                                                                                    • Kornhauser, Ruth Rosner. 1978. Social sources of delinquency: An appraisal of analytic models. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                                                                                      An excellent critique of components associated with social disorganization theory. Clearly delineates the key components and rigorously examines them. Particularly useful for graduate students.

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                                                                                      • Osgood, D. Wayne, and Jeff M. Chambers. 2000. Social disorganization outside the metropolis: An analysis of rural youth violence. Criminology 38:81–116.

                                                                                        DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-9125.2000.tb00884.xE-mail Citation »

                                                                                        A unique study examining factors associated with youth violence in rural areas. Provides an important advance for studies of social disorganization and youth violence.

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                                                                                        • Simcha-Fagan, Ora, and Joseph E. Schwarz. 1986. Neighborhood and delinquency: An assessment of contextual effects. Criminology 24:667–699.

                                                                                          DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-9125.1986.tb01507.xE-mail Citation »

                                                                                          One of the original studies examining how neighborhoods and individual-level characteristics are important for understanding delinquency. Based on research conducted in New York.

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                                                                                          • Wickström, Per-Olof H., and Rolf Loeber. 2000. Do disadvantaged neighborhoods cause well-adjusted children to become adolescent delinquents? A study of male juvenile serious offending, individual risk and protective factors, and neighborhood context. Criminology 38:1109–1142.

                                                                                            DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-9125.2000.tb01416.xE-mail Citation »

                                                                                            Uses data from interviews with Pittsburgh boys to examine whether the timing of youths’ onset of violent delinquency varies across neighborhood context. Explores how individual risk and protective factors condition the relationships.

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                                                                                            Individual Factors and Delinquency

                                                                                            Individual factors related to delinquency have been commonly studied. Most recently, the role of individual factors has been studied within a developmental framework. Moffitt 2006 examines the state of research on two groups of offenders: adolescent-limited and life-course-persistent. Similarly, Broidy, et al. 2003; Nagin and Tremblay 1999; Stattin and Magnusson 1989; and Tremblay, et al. 1992 examine how early behavior affects the types and characteristics of crime later in the life course. These reading illustrate the connections between early aggressiveness and later criminal behavior over time. Based in part on the assumption of stability of behavior across time, Gottfredson and Hirschi 1990 puts forward a “general theory of crime.”

                                                                                            • Broidy, Lisa M., Daniel S. Nagin, Richard E. Tremblay, John E. Bates, Bobby Brame, Kenneth A. Dodge, David Fergusson, John L. Horwood, Rolf Loeber, Robert Laird, Donald R. Lynam, Terrie E. Moffitt, Gregory S. Pettit, and Frank Vitaro. 2003. Developmental trajectories of childhood disruptive behaviors and adolescent delinquency: A six-site, cross-national study. Developmental Psychology 39:372–378.

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                                                                                              Examines the progression of problem behaviors in youth from three countries. Findings illustrate important differences for boys and girls.

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                                                                                              • Gottfredson, Michael R., and Travis Hirschi. 1990. A general theory of crime. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                A controversial book offering a “general theory of crime” based on individuals’ levels of self-control. Has contributed to numerous research and policy debates.

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                                                                                                • Moffitt, Terrie E. 2006. A review of research on the taxonomy of life-course persistent versus adolescence-limited antisocial behavior. In Taking stock: The status of criminological theory. Edited by Francis T. Cullen, John Paul Wright, and Kristie R. Blevins, 277–312. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers.

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                                                                                                  Provides an overview of the differences between life-course-persistent and adolescent-limited antisocial behavior. Extensively reviews the literature on the topic.

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                                                                                                  • Nagin, Daniel S., and Richard E. Tremblay. 1999. Trajectories of boys’ physical aggression, opposition, and hyperactivity on the path to physically violent and nonviolent juvenile delinquency. Child Development 70:1181–1196.

                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1111/1467-8624.00086E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                    Examines the developmental patterns of 1,037 boys. Finds that boys can be divided into four groups with similar patterns of development. Implications for involvement in teenage delinquency are examined.

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                                                                                                    • Stattin, Håkan, and David Magnusson. 1989. The role of early aggressive behavior in the frequency, seriousness, and types of later crime. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 57:710–718.

                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1037/0022-006X.57.6.710E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                      Examines the developmental patterns of Swedish boys and girls. Finds different pathways for boys and girls. Implications of the findings are discussed.

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                                                                                                      • Tremblay, Richard E., B. Masse, D. Perron, Marc Leblanc, Alex E. Schwartzman, and Jane E. Ledingham. 1992. Early disruptive behavior, poor school achievement, delinquent behavior, and delinquent personality: Longitudinal analyses. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 60:64–72.

                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1037/0022-006X.60.1.64E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                        Tests three models of development for boys and girls. Finds that early disruptive behavior, poor school achievement, delinquent behavior, and delinquent personality are linked, but the relationships differ between boys and girls.

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                                                                                                        Demographic Differences in Delinquency

                                                                                                        One of the most controversial topics in juvenile delinquency involves demographic differences in offending. Factors such as race/ethnicity and sex are commonly tied to perceptions of juvenile delinquency, although research has produced mixed results as to differences across these groups. Generally speaking, sex differences in juvenile offending have been found to be more robust than racial/ethnic differences. Elliott and Ageton 1980 and Hindelang, et al. 1979 provide examples of early examinations of these patterns. Each of these studies illustrates the importance of where the data is obtained (self-report surveys or official records), but the studies diverge in their conclusions. Huizinga and Elliott 1987 further explores the issue through refined measurement and an examination of theoretical reasons why different sources may produce different patterns. Lauritsen 2005 provides an excellent review of the literature on race/ethnicity and offending and suggests that the relationship between race, ethnicity, and offending is quite complex and contingent on a number of other factors. Finally, Steffensmeier and Allan 1996 and Heimer and De Coster 1999 tackle the issue of sex differences in offending. While there is some agreement between the two studies on the extent of gender differences in juvenile offending, there is considerable disagreement on the processes contributing to these differences. Taken together, these studies illustrate the complexity of what is often viewed in relatively simplistic terms.

                                                                                                        • Elliott, Delbert S., and Suzanne S. Ageton. 1980. Reconciling race and class differences in self-reported and official estimates of delinquency. American Sociological Review 45:95–110.

                                                                                                          DOI: 10.2307/2095245E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                          Uses data collected from self-report surveys and police records to examine differences in delinquency for white and black youth. Results indicate few racial differences in delinquency based on self-reports, but substantial racial differences based on police records.

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                                                                                                          • Heimer, Karen, and Stacy De Coster. 1999. The gendering of violent delinquency. Criminology 37:277–318.

                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-9125.1999.tb00487.xE-mail Citation »

                                                                                                            Examines prior literature on sex differences in violent delinquency and develops a theoretical model to explain these differences. Excellent examination into processes associated with violent offending by females.

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                                                                                                            • Hindelang, Michael J., Travis Hirschi, and Joseph G. Weis. 1979. Correlates of delinquency: The illusion of discrepancy between self-report and official measures. American Sociological Review 44:995–1014.

                                                                                                              DOI: 10.2307/2094722E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                              Reviews the literature on discrepancies between self-reported delinquency and official records of delinquency. Suggests that self-reports and official records may measure different types of behavior, resulting in different pictures of delinquency. Issues related to racial differences are discussed.

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                                                                                                              • Huizinga, David, and Delbert S. Elliott. 1987. Juvenile offenders: Prevalence, offender incidence, and arrest rates by race. Crime and Delinquency 33:206–223.

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                                                                                                                A detailed study of racial differences in offending and official responses to behaviors. Highlights conceptual differences between the two and offers potential explanations for divergent findings across data sources.

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                                                                                                                • Lauritsen, Janet L. 2005. Racial and ethnic differences in juvenile offending. In Our children, their children: Confronting racial and ethnic differences in American juvenile justice. Edited by Darnell F. Hawkins and Kimberly Kempf-Leonard, 83–104. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                                                                                                                  Provides comprehensive coverage of patterns of racial/ethnic differences in offending by offense type and different data sources. Reviews the literature to determine potential explanations for patterns of convergence and divergence.

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                                                                                                                  • Steffensmeier, Darrell, and Emilie Allan. 1996. Gender and crime: Toward a gendered theory of female offending. Annual Review of Sociology 22:459–487.

                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1146/annurev.soc.22.1.459E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                    Examines potential reasons for differences between male and female offending patterns. Also presents information relevant to gender-specific programming efforts.

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                                                                                                                    Anti-Delinquency Programs and Policies

                                                                                                                    Responses to delinquency abound, but few have been found to be truly effective and some have had unintended negative consequences. How do we know which ones are best? Fortunately, several key sources are available to help guide the search for effective programs. Howell 2003 provides a good starting point, as it is based on the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Comprehensive Strategy (see also the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention website). Another excellent source is the University of Colorado’s Blueprints for Violence Prevention, which is devoted to disseminating information about evidence-based practices that have met rigorous empirical evaluations. Lipsey and Wilson 1998 also provides very useful information based on a rigorous examination of studies of interventions aimed at serious youth offenders. School-related prevention programs are also thoroughly covered by Gottfredson 2001. Finally, Lundman 2001 provides an excellent overview of interventions at different stages, from prior to youth becoming delinquent to after youth have been adjudicated.

                                                                                                                    • Blueprints for Violence Prevention.

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                                                                                                                      Perhaps the best starting point for learning about successful delinquency-prevention programs. Descriptions of programs and ratings of their effectiveness make this an invaluable source of information on evidence-based delinquency-prevention practices.

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                                                                                                                      • Gottfredson, Denise C. 2001. Schools and delinquency. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                        The most comprehensive book available examining the link between delinquency and schools. Focuses on how different school-based prevention programs operate and the mechanisms separating those that are successful from those that are not.

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                                                                                                                        • Howell, James C. 2003. Preventing and reducing juvenile delinquency: A comprehensive framework. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage

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                                                                                                                          An excellent book examining history, trends, and anti-delinquency programs. Packed with detailed coverage of the issues, couched within the “Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Comprehensive Strategy,” this book is a must-read for undergraduate and graduate students, but also very useful for policymakers.

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                                                                                                                          • Lipsey, Mark W., and David B. Wilson. 1998. Effective intervention for serious juvenile offenders. In Serious and violent juvenile offenders: Risk factors and successful interventions. Edited by Rolf Loeber and David P. Farrington, 313–345. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage

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                                                                                                                            A very useful resource for practitioners, policymakers, and researchers involved in intervention programs. Provides a thorough examination of prior studies to see what works and reasons why some approaches are successful and others are not.

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                                                                                                                            • Lundman, Richard J. 2001. Prevention and control of juvenile delinquency. 3d ed. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                              An excellent book covering the measurement of and responses to juvenile delinquency. Material is presented in three main sections: pre-delinquent interventions, pre-adjudication interventions, and post-adjudication interventions. Very useful for undergraduate and graduate courses.

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                                                                                                                              • Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

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                                                                                                                                Created by the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (1974), this is a comprehensive online repository for government-sponsored juvenile justice–related research and technical assistance.

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