(Lorion et al., 1987; Farrington, 1989; Yoshikawa, 1994; Catalano and Hawkins, 1996; Biglan et al., 2004).
Other studies of risk markers for serious delinquency reached similar conclusions. Porter and colleagues (1999) used data from the three projects of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s Program of Research on the Causes and Correlates of Delinquency in Denver, Pittsburgh, and Rochester. They compared three groups—nonoffenders, general but nonviolent delinquents, and violent delinquents—on 19 risk markers representing 7 domains—community, family structural characteristics, parent-child relations, school, peers, individual, and problem behaviors. They conclude that “there is not a different set of risk factors for serious violent offenders … [but] the serious violent offenders have greater deficits, or more extreme scores, on many of these risk factors as compared to general delinquents [and] are also more likely to experience risk in multiple domains” (Porter et al., 1999, p. 15). More recently, Esbensen and colleagues (2010) examined risk markers for serious delinquency in a sample of 5,935 eighth graders drawn from 11 different communities throughout the United States. They compared nonoffenders to nonviolent offenders and to serious violent offenders across 18 risk markers. In general, level of risk increased from nonoffenders to nonviolent offenders to violent offenders, but the differences appeared to be a matter of degree rather than kind. Similar results were also found when examining a high-risk sample of adolescents from Los Angeles (MacDonald, Haviland, and Morral, 2009). Once again, frequent and violent offenders differed from nonviolent and low-rate offenders, not in the presence of certain risk markers, but rather in that frequent and violent offenders had higher than average values across their baseline assessment of risk markers for delinquency, such as delinquent peers, family criminality, and substance use.
Comparing Delinquents and Nonoffenders
Few studies directly compare serious delinquents to both general delinquents and nonoffenders. Among those that do, however, the weight of the available evidence suggests that serious delinquents are influenced by the same risk markers and developmental processes as other youth. Some preliminary evidence of associations between neuropsychological or physiological indicators and serious adolescent offending exists (e.g., Cauffman, Steinberg, and Piquero, 2005), but there is no body of evidence of which we are aware to indicate that serious delinquents are qualitatively different from other delinquents who are involved in the juvenile justice system. They do commit more offenses and some more violent offenses, but that is because they appear to experience a greater accumulation of risk markers in comparison to others. But the individual risk markers that they experience,