children become criminal delinquents. Parental conflict and harsh, erratic discipline have been shown to contribute to juvenile crime. Abused children are also at high risk of becoming involved in crime. Households that provide safety, emotional warmth, and guidance foster the development of noncriminal young people even in neighborhoods at high risk for crime. During early adolescence, peers begin to take on increasing importance. Those who associate with delinquent companions are likely to increase their misbehavior when spending time with those companions.

Contrary to their intentions, schools appear to foster problems among misbehaving children and adolescents through such common practices as tracking, grade retention, suspension, and expulsion. The panel took special note of apparent racial and ethnic biases in the administration of these practices.

Where families live affects the opportunities and resources available to them. Children who grow up in neighborhoods with high joblessness, poverty, and crime may see criminal behavior as an acceptable alternative when other opportunities are lacking. The negative impact of poor parenting is also stronger in disrupted neighborhoods (see Chapter 3).


During the past decade, juvenile crime legislation and policy have become more punitive and have blurred the lines between juvenile and adult justice systems. Movement in this direction is continuing, despite indications from research on recidivism and deterrence that it may be counterproductive to treat juveniles as if they were adults. More and more juveniles are being detained and incarcerated, even though there is evidence that most juveniles can be treated equally or more effectively in the community than in secure confinement, without jeopardizing community safety.

Responding to juvenile crime requires the establishment of programs to prevent its development as well as programs to deal with young people who have committed criminal acts. These programs may be found in a variety of institutional settings, including schools, community-based organizations, religious organizations, mental health settings, and the formal juvenile justice and adult criminal justice systems.


Our review of attempts at prevention has turned up very few programs that have credible evaluations. The most effective crime prevention programs, the panel concludes, address a range of difficulties. Approaches that appear successful in reducing delinquency, based on well-designed

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