rather than as a last resort. For this reason, it is important to emphasize at the outset of this report that findings in developmental science provide a strong rationale for investing in early prevention programs, that empirical evidence regarding the efficacy of specific prevention programs is growing, and that OJJDP is charged with providing federal leadership in delinquency prevention.
Developmental science findings indicate that children who are at risk for persistent delinquency can be identified early in life with relative accuracy (Moffitt et al., 2011), providing targets for prevention programs. Findings also identify theoretically coherent risk and protective factors, beginning at or before birth, that provide substantive foci for interventions. The findings provide the rationale for early prevention programs that have been evaluated through randomized controlled trials and found to reduce risk for delinquency. The most effective programs are ones that target multiple domains of parenting, children’s social-cognitive skills, and school success. Programs directed toward demographically high-risk families in the first several years of life focus on supporting parenting and/or delivery of high-quality preschool day care, including the Abecedarian Project (Campbell and Ramey, 1995), the Child-Parent Center Education Program (Reynolds et al., 2011), the Nurse Family Partnership (Olds et al., 1998), and the Perry Preschool Program (Heckman et al., 2010). A meta-analysis by Piquero et al. (2009) revealed that these programs, on average, are not only effective but also may be wise economic investments because of the savings that accrue over a youth’s life course.
Programs in middle childhood target parenting and social-cognitive skills among early-starting children with conduct problems, including Anger Coping (Lochman and Wells, 2004), the Fast Track Program (Conduct Problems Prevention Research Group, 2010), GREAT Schools and Families (Multisite Violence Prevention Project, 2009), and the Montreal Longitudinal Experiment (Boisjoli et al., 2007). An effective approach with African American boys is to help them alter hostile attributional biases (Hudley and Graham, 1993). Middle school curricula in social-cognitive development, such as Life Skills Training (Botvin et al., 2006), prevent adolescent substance use and antisocial behaviors. In order for these programs to have a population-level effect, major systems in children’s lives—school, family, health, housing, community—must support and coordinate their services. For a recent review of the prevention literature, the reader is also referred to Preventing Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Disorders Among Young People: Progress and Possibilities (National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, 2009).