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Juvenile Crime, Juvenile Justice (2001)

Chapter: Preventing Juvenile Crime

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Suggested Citation:"Preventing Juvenile Crime." National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. 2001. Juvenile Crime, Juvenile Justice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9747.
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4

Preventing Juvenile Crime

Efforts to prevent juvenile delinquency have a long history, but generally they have not been subjected to scientific evaluation of their effects. The following sections discuss programs aimed at families, programs aimed at children and adolescents in schools, and community-based programs. This discussion is not intended as a catalog of all programs available around the country. A comprehensive review of the entire body of prevention program research was beyond the resource capacity of the panel. The literature analyzed for this report was culled largely from a number of published reviews (Barnett, 1995; Brewer et al., 1995; Catalano et al., 1998; Gottfredson, 1997; Gottfredson et al., 1998; Hawkins et al., 1995b; Hope, 1995; Karoly et al., 1998; Lipsey and Wilson, 1998; Sherman, 1997a, 1997b; Tolan and Guerra, 1998; Tremblay and Craig, 1995; Wasserman and Miller, 1998; Yoshikawa, 1995). The panel confined its discussions to prevention programs that have been subjected to experimental or quasi-experimental evaluation research.1 In selecting evaluations to include, the panel chose to look at programs that measured effects on risk factors for delinquency as well as on delinquent behavior itself. Few programs for families and young children have follow-ups that are long enough to test for delinquent behavior. Programs delivered to delinquent youth or that invoke juvenile justice sanctions are covered in Chapter 5.

1  

For an excellent discussion of the stages of evaluation research and the criteria for quasi-experimental and experimental designs, see National Research Council (1998, Chapter 3).

Suggested Citation:"Preventing Juvenile Crime." National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. 2001. Juvenile Crime, Juvenile Justice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9747.
×

PREVENTION OF JUVENILE DELINQUENCY THROUGH FAMILY INTERVENTIONS

How parents interact with their children and, in particular, their disciplinary styles, can increase or decrease the likelihood of later antisocial and delinquent behavior by their offspring. As Patterson and his colleagues (Patterson, 1976, 1995; Patterson et al., 1984) indicate through their research, parents who nag or use idle threats are likely to generate coercive systems in which children gain control through misbehaving. So important does the family appear to be in terms of the development of youth crime that programs have been designed to help parents cope with their offspring. Kazdin (1997:1351) summarized this line of research by noting that parent management training “has led to marked improvements in child behavior on parent and teacher reports of deviant behavior, direct observation of behavior at home and school, and institutional records (e.g., school truancy, police contacts, arrest rates, institutionalization).” The following section discusses evaluations of programs that were wholly or in part focused on assisting and training parents. These programs are summarized in Table 4-1.

Interventions with Parents and Young Children

A strong case for interventions with expectant parents can be made because of the nature of human growth. Brain development during the fetal period has lifelong consequences (Carnegie Task Force on Meeting the Needs of Our Youngest Children, 1994) and can be altered by chemical agents (such as alcohol, nicotine, and drugs), by mothers' behavior and health, and by environmental effects on the mother (Coe, 1999; Wakschlag et al., 1997).

Parents with a history of social adjustment problems are most likely to maintain risky behaviors during pregnancy. From this perspective, a number of preventive interventions have targeted pregnant adolescents. These experiments can often be considered interventions with disruptive adolescents in an effort to prevent the intergenerational continuity of antisocial behavior. Unfortunately, participants in these intervention studies generally have not been followed long enough to document the program's impact on the development of disruptive behavior for either the mother or the child.

The Elmira Home Visitation study (Olds et al., 1997b, 1998) is an exception. Participants in this targeted prevention experiment were pregnant women with no prior live births and were either unmarried, adolescent, or poor. Other pregnant women were included in the study to prevent stigmatization. Three experimental groups were created by ran-

Suggested Citation:"Preventing Juvenile Crime." National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. 2001. Juvenile Crime, Juvenile Justice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9747.
×

dom allocation. Women in the first group were visited weekly by a nurse for the first month after enrollment in the study, twice a month until birth, weekly for the first six weeks after birth, twice a month until the baby reached 21 months, and monthly until the child reached the end of the second year. Women in the second group received home visits only during pregnancy, while women in the third group had a screening interview after birth and free transport to the health clinic between the child's birth and the end of the second year. Mothers and children have been followed up to the child's 15th birthday. Fewer mothers in the first group were identified as perpetrators of child abuse and neglect. In addition, significant differences between the first group and controls have been observed when the comparison is limited to those women who were unmarried and had low incomes at initial enrollment. The unmarried, low-income mothers in the first group had fewer subsequent births, longer intervals between the birth of the first and second child, fewer substance abuse impairments, fewer self-reported and officially recorded arrests, and were less often on Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) than similar mothers in the control groups (Olds et al., 1997a). When the children reached 15 years of age, their delinquency involvement was assessed. Results showed that the adolescent children of the unmarried, low-income mothers who were visited by nurses during pregnancy and the first two years after birth, compared with the comparison groups, reported fewer instances of running away, fewer arrests, fewer convictions and violations of probation, fewer lifetime sex partners, fewer cigarettes smoked per day, and fewer days having consumed alcohol in the last six months (Olds et al., 1998).

Olds et al. (1998) reported that the program cost was between $2,800 and $3,200 per family per year. They also estimated that the reduction of the number of pregnancies for low-income mothers and the related reduction in welfare costs were such that the costs of the intervention program were recovered four years after the birth of these women 's first child. The Rand Corporation estimated that when the children reached 15 years of age, savings had reached four times the cost of the program (Karoly et al., 1998).

The Elmira nurse home-visiting model has been replicated in Memphis. The goal of the Memphis replication was to see the effects of the model when delivered through the existing health department with minimal input from the researchers (Olds, 1998). Low-income women experiencing their first pregnancy were recruited at the Memphis Regional Medical Center and were randomly assigned to one of four conditions: (1) free transportation to prenatal care appointments; (2) free transportation to prenatal care appointments plus developmental screening and referral services for the child at 6, 12, and 24 months; (3) free transportation,

Suggested Citation:"Preventing Juvenile Crime." National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. 2001. Juvenile Crime, Juvenile Justice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9747.
×

TABLE 4-1 Family Interventions for Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency

Intervention

Evaluation Type

Number of subjects at follow-up

Program components

Adolescent Transitions Program (Dishion and Andrews, 1995; Dishion et al., 1996)

Random assignment to one of three treatments; quasi-experimental control group

N (parent only) = 21

N(teen only) = 29

N(parent & teen) = 29

N(self-directed, control) = 26

N(control) = 36

Parent group education; teen group; family consultation; self-study materials

Elmira Nurse Home Visitation Program (Olds et al., 1997a, b, 1998)

Experimental (Randomized controlled trial)

N(exp) = 97

N(control) = 148

Nurse home visiting

Memphis Nurse Home Visiting (Kitzman et al., 1997)

Experimental (Randomized controlled trial)

N(exp) = 223

N(control) = 515

Nurse home visiting

High/Scope Perry Preschool (Schweinhart et al., 1993)

Experimental (Randomized controlled trial)

N(exp) = 58

N(control) = 65

Preschool and home visiting

Houston ParentChild Development Center (Johnson and Walker, 1987)

Experimental (Randomized controlled trial)

N(exp) = 51

N(control) = 88

Home visiting, center-based parent training, and day care

Suggested Citation:"Preventing Juvenile Crime." National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. 2001. Juvenile Crime, Juvenile Justice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9747.
×

Age at treatment

Length of treatment

Length of follow-up

Delinquency and antisocial behavior outcomes

Other outcomes

10 to 14 years

12 weeks

1 year

Teen-focus group had more teacher identified behavior problems at follow-up than those in other groups

Parent-focus and teen-focus groups had improved family functioning; teen-focus group had significantly more tobacco use at follow-up than parent-focus or controls

Prenatal to age 2

2 years

15 years

Fewer arrests, convictions, and probation violations among treatment group; fewer incidents of running away from home among treatment group

Less cigarette and tobacco use and fewer sexual partners among treatment group; lower rate of child abuse and neglect by treatment group parents

Prenatal to age 2

2 years

0 years

Fewer injuries and hospitalizations of program children; fewer subsequent pregnancies and less time on welfare for program mothers

Age 3-4

1 to 2 years

24 years

Significantly fewer arrests by age 27 among treatment group

Treatment group had significantly higher high school graduation rates, significantly higher incomes, were significantly more likely to be home owners, and were less likely to receive social services

Ages 1 to 3 years

2 years

5 to 8 years

Program children had fewer acting out, aggressive behavior problems

Suggested Citation:"Preventing Juvenile Crime." National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. 2001. Juvenile Crime, Juvenile Justice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9747.
×

Intervention

Evaluation Type

Number of subjects at follow-up

Program components

Mailman Center for Child Development (Field et al., 1982)

Experimental (Randomized controlled trial)

N(exp) = 64

N(control) = 30

Home visiting and day care

Mailman Center for Child Development (Stone et al., 1988)

Experimental (Randomized controlled trial)

N(exp) = 31

N(control) = 30

Home visiting and day care

Montreal Longitudinal Experimental Study (Tremblay et al., 1995)

Experimental (Randomized controlled trial)

N(exp) = 46

N(attention-control) = 84

N(no-contact control) = 42

Parent training and school-based social skills training

Newcastleupon-Tyne (Kolvin et al., 1981)

Experimental

Group therapy, parent counseling and teacher consultation, and behavior modification (older children) or nurturing work (younger children)

PARTNERS program with Head Start families (Webster-Stratton, 1998)

Experimental (Random assignment of Head Start centers to treatment or control conditions)

N(exp) = 189

N(control) = 107

Parent and teacher training

Suggested Citation:"Preventing Juvenile Crime." National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. 2001. Juvenile Crime, Juvenile Justice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9747.
×

Age at treatment

Length of treatment

Length of follow-up

Delinquency and antisocial behavior outcomes

Other outcomes

Birth to age 1

1 year

1 year

Better growth and development among treatment group; treatment mothers had greater rate of return to work or school and fewer repeat pregnancies

Birth to age 1

1 year

5 to 8 years

No differences on academic, behavioral, or social-emotional skills

Age 7

2 years

10 years

Significantly less delinquent behavior among intervention group

7- to 8-year-olds, 11- to 12year-olds

Parent counseling- up to 10 visits; group therapy-10 sessions; behavior modification-2 school terms; nurturing work-5 school terms

3 years after baseline assessments

Less antisocial behavior among play group therapy treatment group; no difference between treatment and control groups for other treatment conditions

Age 4

8 to 9 weeks

12 to 18 months

Intervention children significantly decreased their misbehavior compared to no change in control group

Intervention children significantly increased their positive affect compared to no change in control group.

Suggested Citation:"Preventing Juvenile Crime." National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. 2001. Juvenile Crime, Juvenile Justice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9747.
×

Intervention

Evaluation Type

Number of subjects at follow-up

Program components

Seattle Social Development Project (Hawkins et al., 1999)

Non-controlled Randomized trial

N = 598

Teacher training, parent education, social competence training for children

Syracuse University Family Development Research Program (Lally et al., 1988)

Quasi-experimental (Matched Pair control group)

N(program) = 65

N(control) = 54

Home visiting and day care

developmental screening, and intensive nurse home visitation during pregnancy with one postpartum visit in the hospital and one postpartum visit at home; and (4) free transportation, developmental screening, and nurse home visitation during pregnancy continuing to child's second birthday. When the children were age 2, the group that received the full home visitation program (the experimental group) was compared with the group that had free transportation and developmental screening and referral services (the control). Mothers in the experimental group had fewer subsequent pregnancies and less time on welfare than mothers in the control group. Children in the experimental group had fewer injuries and ingestions and fewer hospitalizations for injuries and ingestions than the control children (Kitzman et al., 1997). Continuing follow-ups are planned.

The Syracuse University Family Development Research Program (Honig, 1977; Honig and Lally, 1982; Lally and Honig, 1977) began providing services to low-income mothers during their last trimester of pregnancy and continuing for the first five years of the childrens' lives. The program consisted of weekly home visits by paraprofessionals to assist the family with issues of childrearing, family relations, employment, and community functioning. The program also provided day care services for

Suggested Citation:"Preventing Juvenile Crime." National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. 2001. Juvenile Crime, Juvenile Justice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9747.
×

Age at treatment

Length of treatment

Length of follow-up

Delinquency and antisocial behavior outcomes

Other outcomes

1st to 6th grade

6 years

6 year (age 18)

Significantly less violent delinquent behavior among experimental group

Less heavy drinking, sexual intercourse, multiple sex partners, and pregnancy among experimental group; higher academic achievement among experimental group

Prenatal to age 5

5 years

10 years

Treatment group less likely to have juvenile justice system involvement

the children for 50 weeks a year. Children from 6 to 15 months of age were provided with half-day care for 5 days a week. Full-day care was provided 5 days a week for children from 15 to 60 months of age.

When the program children were 36 months old, a matched-pair control group was established. The control group children were matched in pairs with program children with respect to age, ethnicity, birth ordinality, sex, family income, family marital status, maternal age, and maternal educational status at the time of the child's birth. Lally et al. (1988) conducted a follow-up study of both control and program groups 10 years after program completion. Data on delinquency were collected from probation and court records. Children in the program group were less likely to have been involved in the juvenile justice system than were the control group children. Only 6 percent of program children, compared with 22 percent of the control children, had been processed as probation cases for delinquent behavior. Furthermore, the program children had committed less severe offenses than the control children.

Although beginning parent training prenatally may be preferable to beginning postnatally, one would expect interventions with parents of infants to have a significant impact on their parenting skills, and thus on the socialization of their children.

Suggested Citation:"Preventing Juvenile Crime." National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. 2001. Juvenile Crime, Juvenile Justice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9747.
×

The Mailman Center program (Field et al., 1982) study randomly allocated low-income, adolescent mothers to a program that offered home visitation over the first year of life, to a second program that added work as teacher's aides in their infants' nursery program, or to a control group that received no specific treatment. At age 2, children from the second intervention group had higher developmental scores, and their mothers had a higher rate of return to work or school and fewer pregnancies compared with the first intervention group and to the no-intervention control group (Field et al., 1982). However, at a later follow-up, when the children were between 5 and 8 years of age, no significant differences were observed between children in both intervention groups and those in the control group on academic, behavioral, and socioemotional assessments (Stone et al., 1988). Although the investigators assessed only half the families, no significant differences were found between the original sample and those followed up. The authors concluded that the low socioeconomic status of the mothers may have overridden the early positive effects of the interventions. Results of the Elmira and Syracuse studies that also targeted low-income adolescent mothers suggest that the lack of long-term effects of the Mailman Center program could be due to failure to include a prenatal component and to the short duration of the intervention.

Programs for parents of infants seem to save money in the long run. Most of the reported savings in the Elmira program was due to increased employment and reduced welfare dependence among the mothers in the program. Karoly and colleagues (1998) noted that even more savings may be realized when information is available about employment of the children in the program. Furthermore, their study did not attempt to assign monetary value to other benefits of the program, such as increased IQ or less child abuse. Savings were not evident for the low-risk families who received services in the Elmira program. The authors point out that, at least from the perspective of government savings, this finding “underscores the need for matching the program to the population that needs its services” (Karoly et al., 1998:90-91).

More recently, Webster-Stratton (1998) administered a parent training program that targeted risk factors for disruptive behavior in Head Start centers. Nine Head Start centers (64 classes) were randomly assigned to experimental (345 children) and control conditions (167 children). The 8 to 9 week program focused on teaching effective parenting skills, positive discipline strategies, and ways to strengthen children's social skills and prosocial behaviors to parents of the 4-year-olds attending the Head Start centers. Groups of parents (8-16) met weekly for two hours with a trained family service worker and a professional to view videotapes of modeled parenting skills and discuss parent-child interaction. Posttest

Suggested Citation:"Preventing Juvenile Crime." National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. 2001. Juvenile Crime, Juvenile Justice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9747.
×

and one year follow-up assessments of parental competencies (mother reports and home observations) showed significant differences between the experimental and control condition parents. Teachers reported more parental involvement in the children's education and fewer behavior problems among the children whose parents had received the training.

Experiments have tested the impact of quality day care centers on the development of high-risk children. The impact of day care without any other form of intervention, however, is not known because experiments generally include other forms of intervention, such as parent training and medical services. To the extent that cognitive development, emotional regulation, and peer interaction underlie the development of behavior problems, one would expect that quality day care programs would be an essential component of preventive efforts with at-risk infants and toddlers.

The High/Scope Perry Preschool program (Schweinhart et al., 1986; Weikart and others, 1970), which targeted poor minority families, was successful in preventing crime through the age of 27, when those in the preschool program and in the comparison group were last traced (Schweinhart et al., 1993). The intervention included a high-quality preschool program for 3- and 4-year-olds and home visits by preschool teachers, during which the mothers were taught how to help their children with their preschool activities. Families were randomly assigned to the preschool or to a control group. At age 27, program participants were significantly less likely to have been arrested than were controls. Program participants also showed other positive outcomes. They were significantly more likely to have completed high school, earned significantly more money per year, and were significantly more likely to be home owners than members of the control group.

The Houston Parent-Child Development Center Project (Johnson and Walker, 1987) randomly assigned low-income Mexican-American families with healthy 1-year-olds to a treatment or a control group. The treatment group received home visits by a paraprofessional for the first year of their involvement in the program. During the second year of program involvement, mother and child attended a center-based program four mornings per week. Mothers received classes in child management, child cognitive development, family communication skills, and other family life topics while children spent time in a nursery school. Teacher assessments of externalizing problems 5 to 8 years after the end of the program, when children were ages 8 to 11, showed a substantial positive impact. Children in the program were less likely than those in the control group to exhibit acting-out, aggressive problem behaviors.

On the whole, there is good evidence for a positive impact of quality day care in preventing behavior problems for high-risk children, thus contributing to the long-term prevention of delinquency. The prevention

Suggested Citation:"Preventing Juvenile Crime." National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. 2001. Juvenile Crime, Juvenile Justice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9747.
×

of delinquency by high-quality day care programs contributes to their cost-effectiveness. Karoly et al. (1998) performed a cost-savings analysis on the Perry Preschool program (the only one of the evaluated preschool programs that had measured outcomes appropriate to a cost analysis). The analysis found that the Perry Preschool program paid for itself through savings in future government expenditures. And 40 percent of those savings came from reductions in criminal justice system costs because the children in the program (followed up to age 27) had less juvenile justice and criminal justice system involvement than did controls. The remaining savings resulted from reduction in need for special education services, increased employment, or reduced welfare use among children who had been in the program (Schweinhart et al., 1993). It is important to note that the savings occurred years after the expenditures.

Interventions with Parents and Elementary Schoolchildren

Three experiments with elementary schoolchildren included programs for parents to prevent antisocial behavior. The Newcastle-upon-Tyne project (Kolvin et al., 1981) included a parent counseling/teacher consultation program for a cohort of 7- to 8-year-olds and a cohort of 11-to 12-year-olds. A total of 574 children, who had been identified through screening as at-risk for social or psychiatric disturbance or learning difficulties, were randomly assigned to various treatment or control conditions. The treatments offered to the younger children were a nurturing work program, a play group therapy program, or a parent counseling and teacher consultation program. The older children 's treatments included a behavior modification program, a group therapy program, or a parent counseling and teacher consultation program. In the parent counseling/ teacher consultation program, social workers were given the task of consulting with teachers to assist in planning individualized curricula, discussing the home environment of the child, and promoting links between home and school. They also visited parents to help them understand how family factors influenced the child's school performance. Families were visited up to 10 times, most receiving 4 to 6 visits. Assessments two years after the intervention indicated no significant effects of the parent program for either age cohort. Of all the treatments, only the play group therapy with the younger children resulted in a significant decrease in antisocial behavior compared with the control group.

The Seattle Social Development Project (Hawkins et al., 1998a) is a longitudinal field experiment following a group of multiethnic urban students who entered first grade in eight Seattle public schools in 1981. The intervention involved teacher training, social competence training for

Suggested Citation:"Preventing Juvenile Crime." National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. 2001. Juvenile Crime, Juvenile Justice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9747.
×

students,2 and two parent training components offered on a voluntary basis. The first parent program was a seven-session curriculum on monitoring, teaching expectations for behavior, and positive reinforcement, which was offered to parents when their children were in 1st and 2nd grade. The second was a four-session curriculum on how to help children succeed in school, offered to parents during the spring of the 2nd grade and during the 3rd grade. Unfortunately, only 43 percent of the parents attended at least one of the parenting classes. Attendance is an important and frequent problem with parent training for children at risk of delinquency. Many of the parents have a history of problem behaviors themselves and will not easily and regularly come to group meetings at school. In most cases, individual attention is needed, preferably by visits in their homes. A follow-up study when children were age 18 found significantly higher academic achievement and lower rates of self-reported lifetime violent delinquent behavior among children exposed to the full intervention compared with those in the control group (Hawkins et al., 1999). The contributions of the different components (parent, teacher, student) were not examined separately.

The Montréal Longitudinal-Experimental Study (McCord et al., 1994; Tremblay et al., 1995), a preventive intervention, offered a parent training program to the parents of a random sample of boys who had been rated as disruptive during their kindergarten year in schools in low-income areas. The parent training component was based on one developed by the Oregon Social Learning Center (Patterson et al., 1975). However, instead of asking the parents to come to the school or to a clinic, professionals went to their homes approximately once every three weeks over a two-year period. The average number of visits was 17.4, including families that dropped out during the course of the experiment. Because a social skills program was also offered to the children at school, this study could not assess the specific effects of the parent training program. However, the combined programs showed significant positive effects on self-reported delinquent behavior up to seven years after the end of the intervention, when the boys were 15 years old.

Interventions with Parents and Adolescents

Fewer interventions with adolescents than with younger children focus on parents or families. The Adolescent Transition Program (Dishion and Andrews, 1995; Dishion et al., 1996) compared a control (noninter-

2  

The teacher and student components of this program are discussed under school-based interventions.

Suggested Citation:"Preventing Juvenile Crime." National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. 2001. Juvenile Crime, Juvenile Justice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9747.
×

vention) group with the effects of a parent-focused group intervention, an adolescent-focused group intervention, and a combination of the two on adolescents at high risk of developing delinquent behavior. Families who qualified as at risk were randomly assigned to one of the three treatment conditions or to a self-directed study group; a quasi-experimental control group was also recruited. Both parent and teen groups resulted in less family conflict. One year after the intervention, adolescents whose parents were in the parent group showed fewer teacher-reported externalizing behaviors compared with the control group (because no differences were found between the self-directed study group and the no-intervention control group, they were both considered together as the control group). Both one and three years after the intervention, however, adolescents in the teen group exhibited higher levels of externalizing behaviors and of tobacco use than did the controls (Dishion et al., 1996, 1999). The negative impact of the adolescent-focused group appeared to outweigh the positive impact of the parent-focused group for those assigned to the combined treatment.

Interventions with Future Parents

Preventive interventions with parents of at-risk children should most likely start before they actually become parents. Because parents of children with behavior problems often have, themselves, a history of disruptive and antisocial behavior (Huesmann et al., 1984; Rowe and Farrington, 1997), one would expect that, if successful, interventions with disruptive and antisocial children in one generation would be a preventive intervention for the children of the next generation. While classrooms and neighborhoods are disrupted more by the deviant behavior of males than of females, the health of females affects their fetuses and the behavior of females influences crime through the adequacy of their childrearing techniques (Cohen, 1998; Perry et al., 1996; Serbin et al., 1998).

There appears to be no experimental or quasi-experimental study that has assessed the disruptive or antisocial behavior of the children of boys and girls who were in an intervention experiment as children or adolescents themselves. Most interventions that have shown long-term effects could do these assessments. The experiments that included both males and females would be especially useful in comparing the long-term benefits of interventions with males compared with females.

Suggested Citation:"Preventing Juvenile Crime." National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. 2001. Juvenile Crime, Juvenile Justice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9747.
×

SCHOOL-BASED PREVENTIVE INTERVENTIONS

Using Schools to Prevent Delinquency

There are many reasons why schools play an important role in the prevention, treatment, and control of juvenile crime. First, longitudinal studies have demonstrated that low measured intelligence, poor academic achievement, small vocabulary, and poor verbal reasoning are predictors of chronic delinquency (Farrington, 1985, 1987; Hawkins et al., 1998b; Maguin and Loeber, 1996; Stattin and Klackenberg-Larsson, 1993). Poor executive functions, including the ability to plan and sequence behavior, have also been associated with stable aggressive behavior in early-adolescent boys (Seguin et al., 1995). Low cognitive ability is thought to precede the development of delinquent behavior; however, it is possible that early aggressive behavior may lead to lower IQ, or that third variables (e.g., parental psychopathology) may account for the cognitive deficit-delinquency association (see, e.g., Fergusson and Horwood, 1995; Fergusson and Lynskey, 1997). At present there is not enough evidence to clearly specify a direction of causality (Yoshikawa, 1994). A causal link between low cognitive ability and delinquency might be mediated by academic success and bonding to the school environment. Low bonding to school, truancy, and school dropout have been related to later violent delinquency (Hawkins et al., 1998b). Low cognitive ability leading to academic failure and reduced bonding to the school may lead to skipping school and dropping out, increasing the time available for becoming involved in delinquent behavior. School interventions designed to improve cognitive functioning could contribute to a reduction in delinquency and provide confirmation of a causal link between reduced cognitive ability and later delinquency.

Second, behavior problems exhibited in school are important targets for intervention in and of themselves. Disruptive behavior in the classroom consumes a teacher's time and energy and interferes with the learning processes of disruptive and nondisruptive students, which may lead to a classwide reduction in academic achievement. Moreover, classroom behavior problems may represent early expressions of disruptiveness that may later develop into delinquent behavior. Childhood aggressive behavior, as well as hyperactivity, attention difficulties, impulsivity, and oppositional behavior, are related to delinquent behavior in adolescence (Farrington, 1991; Huesmann et al., 1984; Pulkkinen and Tremblay, 1992; Tremblay et al., 1994; White et al., 1990). More specifically, teacher-rated aggressive behavior in school is related to later delinquency, particularly in males (Hawkins et al., 1998b; McCord and Ensminger, in press; Stattin and Magnusson, 1989).

Suggested Citation:"Preventing Juvenile Crime." National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. 2001. Juvenile Crime, Juvenile Justice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9747.
×

Third, school processes and climate are related to levels of achievement and delinquency (Figueira-McDonough, 1986; Rutter, 1983). A number of early studies (summarized in Rutter, 1983) have demonstrated a wide variability in delinquency rates across schools. A school environment characterized by competitive academic achievement, a formalized process for handling all discipline problems, and lax supervision is associated with higher rates of minor delinquency than a school environment characterized by an emphasis on stimulating interest in learning, handling nonserious disciplinary problems informally, and strict supervision (Figueira-McDonough, 1986).

Another advantage of intervening in the schools to prevent and reduce delinquency is that, with few exceptions, most children attend school, and most also attend kindergarten. This facilitates the early identification of children who exhibit behavior problems, academic difficulties, or both, which are known predictors of later delinquent behavior (Stattin and Klackenberg-Larsson, 1993; Tremblay et al., 1994; White et al., 1990). Following identification, a school intervention can be implemented for individuals or groups with greater ease than if implemented in the home or a clinic. The following section discusses evaluations of school-based preventive interventions. These studies are summarized in Table 4-2.

Have School-Based Interventions Been Successful in Preventing Delinquency?

Wide variability exists among school-based studies in the types of interventions implemented, the characteristics of the study participants (age, background, personality), the length of the interventions, the length of follow-up periods, and the types of outcome measures. Some interventions are aimed at changing the school or classroom environment, while others are focused on changing student behavior, skills, or attitudes. Few evaluations of school-based interventions directly measure delinquency as an outcome, particularly for interventions in elementary school. Alcohol use and drug use, however, are often examined. In addition, few evaluations include long-term follow-up, making it impossible to know whether reductions in risk factors result in reduced delinquency or whether delinquent behaviors shortly following an intervention are maintained over time. These factors make difficult the task of drawing conclusions concerning which school interventions, or components thereof, are most effective in reducing delinquency.

Programs aimed at building the capacity of schools to initiate and sustain innovation have reduced delinquent behavior, drug use, and suspensions (Gottfredson, 1986, 1987; Kenney and Watson, 1996). Part of these programs involved clarifying school rules and consistently enforc-

Suggested Citation:"Preventing Juvenile Crime." National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. 2001. Juvenile Crime, Juvenile Justice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9747.
×

ing them. Interventions that have focused primarily on rule clarification and setting norms for behavior in school have also been found to reduce vandalism and disruption (Mayer et al., 1983), bullying (Olweus, 1991, 1992; Olweus and Alsaker, 1991), and drug and alcohol use (Hansen and Graham, 1991).

The application of behavioral techniques in the classroom appears to hold promise for the prevention of delinquency. Kellam and colleagues (1998, 1994) instituted a behavior management program (The Good Behavior Game) in randomly selected 1st grade classrooms. Several schools in each of five areas in eastern Baltimore were matched and randomly assigned to an intervention or control condition. In the intervention schools, teachers were randomly assigned to classrooms and intervention conditions. Children in intervention schools were assigned sequentially to control classrooms or to intervention classrooms, with reassignment if necessary to achieve balance. The five areas from which the schools were drawn were diverse and included a white ethnic low- to middle-income area with well-maintained row houses, a predominantly black, very low-income area with the population living predominantly in housing projects, a black middle-income area with families living in well-maintained row houses, an integrated middle-income area with families living in detached frame houses, and a predominantly white moderate-income area with families living in detached and semidetached houses. The program was designed to have teachers clearly define unacceptable behaviors and to socialize children to regulate their own and their teammates' behavior through team contingent reinforcement. Children were kept in treatment or control classes for the two years of the intervention. When assessed in 6th grade, boys in the treatment group showed a reduction in aggressive, disruptive behavior. This was particularly so for those from 1st grade classrooms with high levels of aggression. Kellam et al. (1998) point out that the findings had a number of limitations.

The study by Hawkins et al. (1998a) of the Seattle Social Development Project demonstrated that teacher training in classroom management, interactive teaching, and cooperative learning, particularly in the context of a multimodal intervention package, can lead to long-term reductions in delinquent behavior and other negative outcomes. The Seattle project is a longitudinal nonrandomized controlled trial study that has followed a group of multiethnic urban students who entered 1st grade in 1981 (Hawkins et al., 1992). Two schools were assigned as full control schools, two schools were full experimental schools, and in six schools entering students were randomly assigned to a control or experimental classroom. The intervention included skills training components for students and parents, as well as the teacher training component. In 1985, all fifth graders in 10 more schools were added to the study. Students in the

Suggested Citation:"Preventing Juvenile Crime." National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. 2001. Juvenile Crime, Juvenile Justice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9747.
×

TABLE 4-2 School-Based Delinquency Prevention Programs

Intervention

Evaluation Type

Number of subjects at follow-up

Program components

Behavioral contracts with adolescents (Stuart et al., 1976)

Experimental (random assignment of school referred pre-delinquent youth)

N(exp) = 30

N(control) = 25

Behavioral contracts, family treatment sessions

Behavior modification (Bry, 1982)

Experimental (random assignment of at-risk youth)

N(exp) = 30

N(control) = 30

Teacher consultations, group meetings with students, periodic parent contact

Behavior modification (Brooks, 1975)

Experimental (random assignment of persistenty truant students)

Awards for attendance

Fast Track (Conduct Problems Prevention Research Group, 1999a, b)

Random assignment by school

N(exp) = 198 classrooms

N(control) = 180 classrooms

Social and emotional competency training— all students; parent training, home visits, tutoring, and small-group social skills work—at-risk students

Good Behavior Game (Kellam et al., 1998)

Quasiexperimental

N(exp) = 238

N(control) = 680

Classroom mangement

Moral Reasoning (Arbuthnot and Gordon, 1986)

Matched and randomly assigned aggressive and disruptive students

Post Intervention

N(exp) = 24

N(control) = 24

Follow up

N(exp) = 13

N(control) = 9

Guided moral dilemma discussions

Suggested Citation:"Preventing Juvenile Crime." National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. 2001. Juvenile Crime, Juvenile Justice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9747.
×

Age at treatment

Length of treatment

Length of follow-up

Delinquency and antisocial behavior outcomes

Other outcomes

12- to 17-years-old

4 months

0

More court contacts among control group, but differences not statistically significant

School and home behavior more likely to improve among experimental group

7th-8th graders

2 years

5 years

Significantly fewer court contacts among program group

High School

8 weeks

0

Increased school attendance rates for experimental group

1st grade

1 year

1 month

Intervention schools had lower rates of peer- and teacherrated aggression and lower rates of teacher rated conduct problems

Intervention schools had more positive classroom atmospheres as rated by independent observers

1st and 2nd grades

2 years

6 years

For program boys, reduction in aggressive behavior

13- to 17-year-olds

16 to 20 weeks

Post intervention and 1 year

Fewer police and court contacts among intervention group immediately post intervention, but no difference at 1 year follow-up

Fewer referrals to principal's office, less absenteeism, and better grades in humanities and social sciences among intervention group at post-intervention and 1 year

Suggested Citation:"Preventing Juvenile Crime." National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. 2001. Juvenile Crime, Juvenile Justice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9747.
×

Intervention

Evaluation Type

Number of subjects at follow-up

Program components

Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies—Regular Education Students (Greenberg and Kusché, 1996, 1998)

Random, by school (2 control schools, 2 experimental schools)

N(exp) = 87

N(control) = 113

Social and emotional competency training

Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies—Special Education Students (Greenberg and Kusché, 1996, 1998)

Random by classroom (7 control classes, 7 experimental classes)

N(exp) = 49

N(control) = 59

Social and emotional competency training

Resolving Conflict Creatively Program (Aber et al., 1996)

Quasiexperimental

N=289 classrooms

Teacher training, classroom instruction, peer mediation

School Safety Program (Kenney and Watson, 1996)

Quasi-experimental

N(program) = 1 school, 259 students, 91 teachers

N(control) = 1 school, 192 students, 90 teachers

Problem solving lessons in class; joint problem solving of school problems with students, teachers, police

Seattle Social Development Project (Hawkins et al., 1999)

Nonrandomized controlled trial

N = 598

Teacher training, parent education, social competence training for children

Suggested Citation:"Preventing Juvenile Crime." National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. 2001. Juvenile Crime, Juvenile Justice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9747.
×

Age at treatment

Length of treatment

Length of follow-up

Delinquency and antisocial behavior outcomes

Other outcomes

2nd or 3rd grade

1 year

2 years

Significantly lower externalizing behavior problems among experimental group (measured by CBCL)

1st to 3rd grade

1 year

2 years

Significantly lower externalizing and internalizing behavior problems among experimental group (measured by CBCL)

2nd to 6th grades

1 year

0

Classrooms in which teachers gave a high number of RCCP lessons exhibited a slowed rate of growth in aggressive behaviors and maintenance of prosocial behaviors

11th grade

1 year

0

Program school had reduction in student fights, student-teacher conflicts, and incidents resulting in student suspension

Students and teachers in program both reported increased feelings of safety

1st to 6th grade

6 years

6 years (age 18)

Significantly less violent delinquent behavior among experimental group

Less heavy drinking, sexual intercourse, multiple sex partners, and pregnancy among experimental group; higher academic achievement among experimental group

Suggested Citation:"Preventing Juvenile Crime." National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. 2001. Juvenile Crime, Juvenile Justice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9747.
×

Intervention

Evaluation Type

Number of subjects at follow-up

Program components

Student Training Through Urban Strategies (Gottfredson and Gottfredson, 1992)

Random assignment attempted, but incomplete; statistical controls applied to correct for nonequivalence between groups

N(treatment) = 120

N(control) = 127

Alternative class focusing on the role of rules, law, government, the justice system, and responsibilities of individuals

Teacher and Staff Development (Mayer et al., 1983)

Random assignment of volunteer schools to treatment or delayed treatment

N(treatment) = 5 schools

N(delayed treatment) = 6 schools

Teacher and staff training; on-going consulting with teachers and staff

intervention group received training in communication, decision making, negotiation, and conflict resolution. Parents were offered training in child management and helping children succeed in school. At age 18, children in the intervention had significantly higher academic achievement and lower rates of lifetime violent delinquent behavior than children in the control group (Hawkins et al., 1999).

The Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies (PATHS) curriculum is designed to promote social and emotional competence and prevent or reduce behavior and emotional problems in elementary school children (Greenberg and Kusché, 1998). Evaluations using randomized control and experimental groups have been conducted, one with regular education students in 2nd and 3rd grades and one with special education students in 1st to 3rd grades. Both evaluations found reductions in aggressive and disruptive behavior among the experimental groups at a two-year follow-up (as measured by teacher reports using the Child Behavior Check List). The PATHS curriculum has been integrated into a comprehensive program that involves child, school, family, and community and that has components for all students and additional services for high-risk students. Referred to as Fast Track, this model has been implemented in

Suggested Citation:"Preventing Juvenile Crime." National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. 2001. Juvenile Crime, Juvenile Justice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9747.
×

Age at treatment

Length of treatment

Length of follow-up

Delinquency and antisocial behavior outcomes

Other outcomes

Junior and senior high school

1 school year

0

Treatment students reported less serious delinquency (significant only in senior high group) and significantly less drug use

Treatment group had better grades than controls

Elementary and junior high school

3 years (treatment group), 2 years (delayed treatment group)

End of first year of intervention

Significant reductions in vandalism in treatment school

Increase in positive teacher-student interactions in treatment schools; decrease in ‘off-task' behaviors among students in treatment schools

four locations (Seattle, Washington; Nashville, Tennessee; Durham, North Carolina; and rural Pennsylvania). In each location, approximately 14 schools were randomized equally to intervention or control conditions. The intervention was delivered to first graders in each of three successive years. There were 198 intervention classrooms and 180 matched comparison classrooms across the three years. The classroom was the unit of analysis for the evaluation (Greenberg and Kusch é, 1998).

In intervention schools, the PATHS curriculum was followed in first grade classes for all first graders. A screening process identified the 10 percent of children with the greatest degree of early conduct problems. These children received additional interventions that included weekly parenting support classes, small-group social-skills interventions, academic tutoring, and home visiting. Initial evaluations at the end of the first grade indicated that in schools with the Fast Track program there were lower rates of peer-rated aggression and hyperactivity, lower rates of teacher-rated aggression and conduct problems, and more positive classroom atmosphere as rated by independent observers (Conduct Problems Prevention Research Group, 1999a, 1999b).

Two studies utilizing behavioral contracts for the completion of

Suggested Citation:"Preventing Juvenile Crime." National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. 2001. Juvenile Crime, Juvenile Justice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9747.
×

academic and behavioral goals, with clear rewards for successful completion and costs for breaches, demonstrated short-term (Stuart et al., 1976) behavioral improvements and long-term (Bry, 1982) reductions in delinquency. Stuart et al. (1976) randomly assigned school-referred students with disciplinary problems either to an experimental family and school intervention or to a group treatment placebo control condition. The experimental group used behavioral contracts that specified privileges that could be earned by meeting specific responsibilities and sanctions for noncompliance. Therapists met with families in the experimental group to refine and revise the behavioral contracts. Teachers completed class evaluation cards to let parents know how students in the experimental group were performing at school. The control group families met periodically with a member of the research team. At these sessions, games and other recreational activities selected by the youth were undertaken. Pre- and postprogram assessments by parents and teachers were collected. Information was also gathered from school records and court records. At the end of the intervention, the experimental group showed more improvement on all outcome measures than controls, although improvements on only 4 of 13 measures were statistically significant: school behavior as rated by teachers and school counselors, mother's rating of the parent-child relationship, and mother's rating of marital adjustment. The control group had more juvenile court contacts at posttest than the experimental group, but the differences were not statistically significant.

Seventh graders from a low-income urban school system and a middle-class suburban school system were selected based on low academic achievement, a disregard for rules, and a feeling of distance from their families. Selected students were randomly assigned to intervention and control groups. Researchers monitored attendance and discipline records and met weekly with teachers of intervention students to fill out a weekly report card. Researchers met with the intervention students in small groups to distribute and discuss the report cards. Students accumulated points based on teacher ratings, school attendance, lack of disciplinary referrals, and behavior in small groups. Points were used for an extra school trip of the students' choosing. Parents were contacted often by letter, telephone, and home visits to discuss their child 's progress. The intervention lasted two years, while subjects were in 7th and 8th grades. Five years after program completion, county court and probation department records were checked for program and control subjects. Significantly fewer of the intervention subjects had county court files than the control group (Bry, 1982).

Shorter behavioral modification programs have also been found to have positive effects, at least in the short term. An eight-week program aimed at increasing attendance of truant high school students was evalu-

Suggested Citation:"Preventing Juvenile Crime." National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. 2001. Juvenile Crime, Juvenile Justice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9747.
×

ated by Brooks (1975). Students were randomly assigned to a treatment or a no-treatment control group. Students in the treatment condition signed a contract agreeing to not have unexcused absences and to have their teachers sign daily attendance sheets, which were turned in each school day to the school counselor. A ticket was earned for each teacher's signature and each positive written comment from a teacher. The tickets were used in raffles with prizes of money, movie tickets, record albums, and gift certificates. The raffles were held halfway through the intervention and at the end of the program. Students with better attendance earned more tickets, giving them a better chance of winning in the raffle. Compared with the control group, students in the experimental group increased their attendance significantly over baseline observations.

Research on intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation of students suggests that programs based on contingent reinforcement must be carefully designed. Children who resist engaging in a behavior in the face of strong punishment or who engage in a behavior because of a highly sought-after reward are less likely to internalize the behavioral rules and to behave accordingly when not under supervision or when the reward is removed (e.g., Lepper, 1983).

School interventions emphasizing moral reasoning skills have also demonstrated some efficacy in reducing delinquent behavior. Arbuthnot and Gordon (1986) asked teachers in four rural schools to nominate students with histories of unruliness, aggressiveness, impulsivity, disruptiveness, or specific behavior problems for their study. A total of 48 students were nominated and rated on a behavior rating scale (School Adjustment Index). The students were rank ordered on the basis of their scores on the scale and sequentially paired. By coin toss, one of each pair was assigned to the intervention and one to the no-treatment control group. The intervention consisted of guided moral dilemma discussion groups that were held weekly for one class period over a 16 to 20 week period. At the end of the intervention, teacher ratings of the students showed no difference between intervention and control groups. Students in the intervention group, however, were significantly less likely to be sent to the principal's office for behavior problems and had significantly better grade point averages in humanities and social sciences than controls. The intervention group was also much less likely to have a recorded police or court contact than the controls. Only two of the four schools granted permission for the one-year follow-up, so the sample size was quite small for that evaluation. At the one-year follow-up, students in the intervention group continued to have fewer referrals to the principal's office, lower rates of absenteeism, and better grades in humanities and social sciences than controls. Neither group had contact with the police by the time of follow-up.

Suggested Citation:"Preventing Juvenile Crime." National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. 2001. Juvenile Crime, Juvenile Justice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9747.
×

The Student Training Through Urban Strategies (STATUS) project emphasized personal responsibility and the importance of order and rules (Gottfredson and Gottfredson, 1992). Students in one junior and one senior high school who were nominated by teachers or who volunteered were randomly assigned to the intervention or a no-treatment control group. Difficulties with class scheduling prevented full implementation of the random assignment, yielding nonequivalent treatment and control groups. Students in the intervention group attended an alternative class that covered the function of rules and laws, codes of conduct, the role of the family, individual responsibility, social contracts, and criminal justice issues. The class lasted for the entire school year. Both junior and senior high school students in the treatment group reported significantly less drug use than controls. Treatment students also reported less serious delinquent behavior than controls, although the difference was significant only for senior high school students. Treatment students had fewer contacts with the justice system than controls, but the differences were not significant.

Peer counseling, in which an adult guides group discussion of behavior, values, and attitudes, was found to increase antisocial attitudes and delinquent behavior (Gottfredson, 1987). Lipsey's meta-analysis of programs (Lipsey, 1992) also found individual counseling to be ineffective in reducing delinquency.

Peer mediation and conflict resolution programs have become quite popular in schools. Most studies of peer mediation have been too methodologically weak to justify drawing conclusions about them, and the few that have sufficient methodological rigor found no significant effects on student behavior of peer mediation (Brewer et al., 1995).

One of the few conflict resolution programs to be evaluated is the Resolving Conflict Creatively Program (RCCP) in New York City. The evaluation included 15 elementary schools, in which there were 289 teachers and 5,053 students. The schools were in various stages of program implementation, with some having not begun the program during the first year of the evaluation, and others having fully implemented all program components. Classroom teachers voluntarily received training and support in presenting the RCCP lessons, teachers chose how many lessons to give in the classroom, and children in the classroom could be trained as peer mediators in the program (Aber et al., 1996). The researchers chose a quasi-experimental evaluation design because it did not interfere with a defining characteristic of the program, which was to begin in a school by recruiting and training a few highly motivated teachers and to slowly recruit and train more teachers and add more program components over a period of several years. This means that teachers self-select into the

Suggested Citation:"Preventing Juvenile Crime." National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. 2001. Juvenile Crime, Juvenile Justice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9747.
×

program, but children do not. Data were collected for all students in a school (unless their parents refused permission) in the fall and spring.

Through the use of statistical procedures (agglomerative hierarchical clustering procedure followed by a k-means iterative clustering), three profiles of exposure to the program emerged. The first cluster included 51 teachers and was characterized by a high number of RCCP lessons, a moderate amount of teacher training, and few peer mediators. The second cluster, which included 186 teachers, was characterized by no lessons or teacher training and an average number of peer mediators. The third cluster of 52 teachers had the most teacher training, a low number of lessons given, and a high number of peer mediators.

After the first year of the evaluation, children in cluster one classes, in which their teachers taught the most lessons (up to 30 are available), showed the slowest growth of antisocial behaviors and the greatest retention of prosocial behaviors of all children. (Note that it is a common pattern during elementary school for children in urban schools to increase aggressive interpersonal strategies and decrease prosocial or competent interpersonal strategies over time [Dryfoos, 1990; Farrell and Meyer, 1997; Grossman et al., 1997].) Those in cluster two classrooms, in which no lessons were given, and in cluster three classes, in which teachers received training but presented few lessons, exhibited more hostile attributions, more aggressive interpersonal negotiation strategies, and fewer competent interpersonal negotiation strategies than those in the classrooms with high numbers of lessons (Aber et al., 1998). The researchers speculated that teachers who gave high numbers of lessons may have been more motivated, or that low lesson teachers may have been less skilled at giving the lessons and less committed to the program.

It is important to understand which programs do not work, so that investments of time and money are not wasted. Strategies that have been found to be ineffective, and sometimes even harmful, include instructional programs that focus on information dissemination and fear arousal; counseling students, particularly in peer groups; and providing alternative activities without any prevention programming (Gottfredson et al., 1998:5-35). One such program, which has been extensively evaluated, is the drug prevention program D.A.R.E. None of the methodologically rigorous evaluations have found any reduction in drug use among students who have been through the D.A.R.E. program (Clayton et al., 1996; Ennett et al., 1997; Rosenbaum et al., 1994; Sigler and Talley, 1995). In fact, a six-year follow-up evaluation found that students in suburban schools who had been through the D.A.R.E. program had a slight increase in drug use over those who had not been through the program (Rosenbaum and Hanson, 1998). Gottfredson (Gottfredson et al., 1998:5-35) summarized the research on D.A.R.E. as follows:

Suggested Citation:"Preventing Juvenile Crime." National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. 2001. Juvenile Crime, Juvenile Justice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9747.
×

D.A.R.E. does not work to reduce substance use. The program's content, teaching methods, and use of uniformed police officers rather than teachers might each explain its weak evaluations. No scientific evidence suggests that D.A.R.E. core curriculum, as originally designed or revised in 1993, will reduce substance use in the absence of continued instruction more focused on social competency development.

A school-based gang prevention program based on D.A.R.E.—Gang Resistance Education and Training (G.R.E.A.T.) began to be implemented in 1991 and was incorporated into the curriculum in 47 states by 1996. A national evaluation was begun in 1994. A one-year follow-up has been completed to date and found significantly more prosocial behaviors and attitudes among 8th graders who attended G.R.E.A.T. than among those who did not (Esbensen and Osgood, 1999). It remains to be seen whether these prosocial attitudes will translate into gang avoidance as these youngsters grow older.

Programs that focus on a range of social competency skills, such as developing self-control, stress management, responsible decision making, social problem solving, and communication skills, reduce disruptive and antisocial behavior if they use cognitive-behavioral training methods (e.g., role playing, rehearsal of skills, and behavioral modeling) and are delivered over a long period of time so that skills are continually reinforced (Gottfredson et al., 1998; Rotherman, 1982). More generally, interventions that incorporate school components along with other components, such as home visits (Schweinhart et al., 1993; Schweinhart and Weikart, 1997), parent training (Hawkins et al., 1998a; McCord et al., 1994; Vitaro et al., in press), and child social skills training (Hawkins et al., 1998a) appear to be more effective than those with only one component. Intuitively, it makes sense that changing relationships and environments in multiple areas (e.g., school, family, peers) would lead to greater behavioral change than altering one area only. A home visit or parent component may allow for the generalization of classroom learning to the home environment, perhaps facilitating continued learning after the completion of the intervention. Similarly, changing the classroom or school environment may complement interventions targeted at small groups of students, allowing carryover of skills into more than one setting.

Intervening at younger ages, before the development of delinquent behavior, may be a profitable course of action. Also, the length of the intervention may be important. Studies with larger effects on delinquency tended to be those with intervention periods greater than one year (e.g., Bry, 1982; Gottfredson and Gottfredson, 1992; Hawkins, 1997; Schweinhart et al., 1993; Schweinhart and Weikart, 1997; Tremblay et al., 1995; Vitaro

Suggested Citation:"Preventing Juvenile Crime." National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. 2001. Juvenile Crime, Juvenile Justice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9747.
×

et al., in press), with some notable exceptions (Ahlstrom and Havighurst, 1982; Gottfredson, 1986).

Although a variety of school-based strategies appear to have the potential for reducing antisocial and delinquent behavior, how best to replicate such programs while maintaining their quality and intensity remains an unanswered question. Gottfredson (1997:5-61) points out that when studies report effects separately for groups that differed on the strength and fidelity of the program implementation, “the evidence always suggests that more delinquency is prevented when strategies are implemented with greater fidelity over prolonged periods and that these conditions are met more easily in some schools than in others.” Programs that rely on classroom teachers and classroom time compete with other requirements of the school day and other school system priorities. In addition, not all schools have the capacity to incorporate programs well.

PEER GROUP-BASED INTERVENTIONS

Peers play increasingly important roles as children reach adolescence. Both because of a clear relationship between peer activities and delinquency and because of apparent cost-effectiveness, many intervention programs are provided in group settings. Nevertheless, there are good grounds for believing that in some circumstances such settings may exacerbate problem behaviors among young adolescents (Dishion et al., 1999). Evaluations of peer group based interventions are summarized in Table 4-3.

For example, one study randomly assigned juveniles on probation to special services including group counseling, individual counseling, and tutoring given by volunteers. Those who received special services increased the number of crimes they reported and their records showed increases in the number of their police contacts. In contrast, those who received ordinary services of the juvenile court reduced their criminality (Berger et al., 1975). Another study used random selection to include students in public elementary and high schools in either the treatment or the control group of a Guided Group Interaction program. Overall, the results for elementary schoolchildren showed no effects. For the high school students, however, the Guided Group Interaction program tended to increase misbehavior and delinquency (G.D. Gottfredson, 1987). Other research used a random-allocation design to evaluate the impact of teaching techniques of family management (parent groups and family consultations) and of focusing on peer relations and interactions (adolescent groups). Youths were assigned to one, both, or neither type of intervention. The group assigned to family management improved, but the groups assigned to interventions with a teen focus increased their smoking and aggressive

Suggested Citation:"Preventing Juvenile Crime." National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. 2001. Juvenile Crime, Juvenile Justice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9747.
×

TABLE 4-3 Peer Group-Based Intervention Programs

Intervention

Evaluation Type

Number of subjects at follow-up

Program components

Adolescent Transitions Program (Dishion and Andrews, 1995; Dishion et al., 1996, 1999)

Random assignment to one of four intervention conditions; quasi-experimental control group recruited

N(parent only) = 21

N(teen only) = 29

N(parent and teen) = 29

N(self-directed) = 26

N(control) = 37

Parent education; teen structured discussion group; both of above; Self-directed group provided materials only

Cambridge-Somerville Youth Study (McCord, 1978, 1981; 1992)

Matched pairs, one randomly assigned to treatment, one to control

N(exp) = 248

N(control) = 246

Counseling for child and parents; tutoring; summer camp; group recreational activities

Guided Group Interaction: Peer Culture Development (PCD) (G.D. Gottfredson, 1987)

Random assignment

N(exp) = 184

N(control) = 176

Daily group school-based meetings intended to alter peer interaction; Participants screened for leadership characteristics, attitudes, and conduct prior to selection

The St. Louis Experiment (Feldman, 1992; Feldman et al., 1983)

Random assignment of antisocial youth to mixed or all antisocial groups; random assignment of groups to one of three treatment modalities

N = 701 boys of whom 263 were antisocial

Three group modalities: traditional social work, behavior modification, unstructured; Two leadership modalities: experienced and inexperienced

Suggested Citation:"Preventing Juvenile Crime." National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. 2001. Juvenile Crime, Juvenile Justice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9747.
×

Age at treatment

Length of treatment

Length of follow-up

Delinquency and antisocial behavior outcomes

Other outcomes

10 to 14-year olds

3 to 4 months

1 year

Teens in teen only group showed increase in behavior problems; teens in parent only group showed decrease in behavior problems

under 12 (at start of treatment)

5.5 years

Age 47

Treatment group more likely to have been convicted of a crime, diagnosed as alcoholic, schizophrenic or manic-depressive, or died prior to age 35

15.42 (exp avg.); 15.46 control avg.)

15 week period over one semester

Not reported

Increased waywardness, increased tardiness, decreased attachment to parents, and more self-reported delinquent behavior among high school students in treatment group

7- to 15-yearolds

1 year

1 year

Antisocial behavior of antisocial boys in groups with prosocial boys declined and their prosocial behavior increased compared to no decrease in antisocial behavior in groups of all antisocial boys

Suggested Citation:"Preventing Juvenile Crime." National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. 2001. Juvenile Crime, Juvenile Justice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9747.
×

types of behavior more than did the control group (Dishion and Andrews, 1995). These negative effects were found at both one- and three-year follow-ups (Dishion et al., 1999).

The negative influence of grouping deviant or high-risk peers appears to be stronger during early adolescence. Grouping younger children in interventions has been found to be successful for reducing aggressive behaviors (Hudley and Graham, 1993; McCord et al., 1994). For older adolescents, the research is mixed, with some group interventions resulting in negative outcomes (Catterall, 1987; Dishion et al., 1999) and others finding positive results (Eggert et al., 1994). Positive outcomes from grouping young children but negative outcomes from grouping adolescents makes sense developmentally. Peer influence becomes highly salient during early adolescence and misbehaving youngsters may be more sensitive to peer approval than to that of adults.

The composition of the group may also affect the outcomes. Feldman (1992) found that putting one or two at-risk juveniles in groups of prosocial juveniles reduced antisocial behaviors and increased prosocial behaviors, whereas groups of at-risk juveniles receiving the same interventions increased their misbehavior.

Putting antisocial or at-risk juveniles together may provide them the opportunity to actively reinforce deviant behavior through laughter and social attention while talking about such behavior (Dishion et al., 1995, 1997). In addition, high-risk adolescents may adjust their values as a result of associating with peers who approve of misbehavior and, as a consequence, be more likely to misbehave themselves (McCord, 1997c, 1999).

COMMUNITY-BASED INTERVENTIONS

Although what constitutes the community is often not well defined, community-oriented interventions have been at the forefront of policy and program innovation in a wide range of areas relevant to the understanding, prevention, and control of juvenile crime. These include education, economic development, social services, policing, corrections, and crime prevention. The possibilities and limits of interventions and treatments that take the individual as the unit of treatment have become known and are often disappointing. Furthermore, much evidence suggests that the effects of individually oriented treatments (including sanctions) can be eroded by community characteristics. This has led to increasing efforts to make communities themselves amenable to intervention. Some of the most promising comprehensive prevention programs have been adapted from models that include community-based foci (Hawkins et al., 1997; Institute of Medicine, 1994; Moore, 1995).

Suggested Citation:"Preventing Juvenile Crime." National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. 2001. Juvenile Crime, Juvenile Justice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9747.
×

Despite growing interest in community-oriented interventions, evaluation of them is still in its infancy and problems of conception, design, and implementation are substantial. Pointing to generally acknowledged successes is difficult because, in contrast to well-established standards for evaluating interventions directed toward individuals, methods for evaluating community interventions are still being devised (see, e.g., Connell et al., 1995). One of the most difficult aspects of evaluating community interventions is devising an appropriate control group (Hollister and Hill, 1995). It is much more difficult to use random assignment with neighborhoods or communities than with individuals. All the other methods of establishing comparison groups are problematic. The few studies that have compared randomly assigned groups to comparison groups established through other methods have found the comparison groups to be much different from the randomly assigned control group. One such study by Friedlander and Robins (1994) found that not only was the magnitude of the effect estimated from the constructed comparison groups different from that of the randomly assigned group, but the direction of the effect was different as well. That is, in the random assignment case, the intervention was shown to be successful in improving the status of the experimental group, but when the experimental group was compared with constructed comparison groups, the program appeared to have detrimental effects on those who received it. (See Hollister and Hill, 1995, for a complete discussion of the difficulties of constructing comparison groups for communities.)

Another difficulty in evaluating effects of interventions at the community level is small sample size. The number of communities or institutions involved in evaluations is so small that statistical inferences, which generally rely on large sample sizes, cannot reliably be made (Hollister and Hill, 1995).

Because there are few evaluations of community-level interventions that use experimental designs with the community as the unit of analysis, the studies reported on in this section that use a community or institution as the unit of analysis relied primarily on quasi-experimental designs. The results of such studies must be considered tentative. Table 4-4 summarizes the studies discussed in this section.

The results of an experimental study, Moving to Opportunity, underscores the importance of the community on juveniles. The Department of Housing and Urban Development funded an experimental housing mobility program that explicitly uses random assignment in five cities. Families are eligible for the program if they have children and reside in public housing or Section 8 assisted housing in a census tract with a 1990 poverty rate of 40 percent or more. Eligible families who completed an application and a survey were randomly assigned to one of three condi-

Suggested Citation:"Preventing Juvenile Crime." National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. 2001. Juvenile Crime, Juvenile Justice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9747.
×

TABLE 4-4 Community-Based Intervention Programs

Intervention

Evaluation Type

Number of subjects at follow-up

Program components

Big Brothers/ Big Sisters (Tierney et al., 1995)

Experimental (random assignment to program or wait list)

N(exp) = 487

N(control) = 472

Mentoring

Job Corps (Schochet et al., 2000)

Experimental

N(exp) = 7,311

N(control) = 4,476

Academic education, vocational training, residential living, health care and health education, counseling, and job placement assistance

Midwestern Prevention Project— Indianapolis (Chou et al., 1998)

Experimental (random assignment of schools to program or control)

N(exp) = 32 schools, 557 high-risk students

N(control) = 25 schools, 516 high-risk students

Mass media, school-based educational program, parent education, community organization

Midwestern Prevention Project— Kansas City (Johnson et al., 1990; Pentz et al., 1989a, b, c)

Quasi-experimental

N(exp) = 24 schools, 3011 students

N(control) = 18 schools, 2054 students

Mass media, school-based educational program, parent education, community organization

Minnesota Heart Health Program (Perry et al., 1994)

Quasi-experimental (matched community control)

N = 1,443 students

Behavioral health educational program, teacher and peer leader training, community-wide activities

Moving to Opportunity (Katz et al., 2000)

Experimental

N(exp) = 236 families

N(comparison) = 113 families

N(control) = 176 families

Rental subsidy vouchers plus assistance in moving to low poverty neighborhood

Suggested Citation:"Preventing Juvenile Crime." National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. 2001. Juvenile Crime, Juvenile Justice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9747.
×

Age at treatment

Length of treatment

Length of follow-up

Delinquency and antisocial behavior outcomes

Other outcomes

10- to 16-yearolds

12 months average

18 months after random assignment

Treatment group less likely to initiate alcohol or drug use and less likely to hit someone

Less truancy, improved grades for treatment group

16- to 24-yearolds

Up to 2 years (8 months average)

2.5 years after random assignment

Reductions in arrests, convictions, and incarcerations among 16-to 17-year-olds in treatment group

Higher earnings, higher rate of completion of high school or GED among 16- to 17-year-olds in treatment group

6th and 7th grade

2 years

3.5 years from baseline

Significant reductions in tobacco use at 6 months and alcohol use at 1.5 years in treatment schools

6th and 7th grade

2 years

1 year

 

Less tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana use among experimental group

6th through 10th grade

5 years

2 years

Less heavy drinking among 9th graders in treatment community

Lower smoking rates, more exercise, and better food choices in treatment community

Families with minor children

1 to 3.5 years after random assignment

Fewer behavioral problems among boys in treatment groups

Better health and less victimization among treatment groups

Suggested Citation:"Preventing Juvenile Crime." National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. 2001. Juvenile Crime, Juvenile Justice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9747.
×

TABLE 4-4 Community-Based Intervention Programs

Intervention

Evaluation Type

Number of subjects at follow-up

Program components

PALS (Jones and Offord, 1989)

Quasi-experimental (nonequivalent comparison group)

N(exp) = 1 housing project, 417 youngsters

N(comparison) = 1 housing project, 488 youngsters

Skill development

Project Northland (Perry et al., 1996)

Experimental

N(exp) = 10 school districts

N(control) = 10 school districts

Parent involvement and education, behavioral curricula for students, peer leadership training, community task force

Urban Crime Prevention Program (Rosenbaum et al., 1986)

Quasi-experimental

N = selected target areas from 5 neighborhoods

Door to door contacts, block meetings, neighborhood meetings, and the distribution of educational materials; focusing on establishing and maintaining block watches and/or youth-focused activities

tions. The experimental group received vouchers for rent subsidy that could be used only in an area with a poverty rate under 10 percent. This group also received assistance in searching for an apartment and adjusting to their new neighborhood. The Section 8 comparison group received vouchers that could be used anywhere, but received no assistance in locating new housing. The control group remained on a waiting list. Katz et

Suggested Citation:"Preventing Juvenile Crime." National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. 2001. Juvenile Crime, Juvenile Justice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9747.
×

Age at treatment

Length of treatment

Length of follow-up

Delinquency and antisocial behavior outcomes

Other outcomes

5- to 15-yearolds

32 months

16 months

Fewer police charges against experimental juveniles during treatment and at follow-up

6th, 7th, and 8th grades

3 years

0

Less onset and prevalence of alcohol use in treatment school districts

 

Not reported

1 year

Patterns of significant changes apparent by neighborhood: Increased awareness of and participation in crime prevention meetings, reduced proportion of residents known by name, increased victimization levels, increased youth disorder, increased fear of crime and perceptions of local crime rates, decreased optimism about changes in the neighborhood

 

al. (2000) report on the status of Moving to Opportunity families in Boston. One to three and a half years after random assignment, 48 percent of the experimental group and 62 percent of the Section 8 comparison group had moved. Families in both the experimental group and comparison group were more likely to be residing in neighborhoods with low poverty rates and high education levels than were families in the control group.

Suggested Citation:"Preventing Juvenile Crime." National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. 2001. Juvenile Crime, Juvenile Justice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9747.
×

Experimental group families who moved were more likely to be living in suburban areas than were comparison families who moved, but a higher percentage of experimental families did not move and remained in high poverty areas. Experimental and comparison group families who moved experienced improvements in multiple measures of well-being compared to the control group, including increased safety, improved health, and fewer behavior problems among boys. Katz et al. (2000:34) concluded that the short-term effects of providing vouchers to families who want to move out of high-poverty neighborhoods improves their well-being. In addition, “the MTO-Boston results strongly imply that neighborhoods have large impacts on the health and behaviors of children and adults from low-income families.”

Policing Approaches and Community Mobilization Strategies

Community-oriented policing has been embraced by national and local government throughout the United States. The enthusiasm for this approach, however, has been such that the term now encompasses a variety of meanings. In the mid-1980s, community policing seemed to mean getting police officers out of patrol cars and back in touch with ordinary citizens on a day-to-day to basis, rather than just when crises arose. The term problem-solving policing has also become popular, pointing to a process in which police, other public agencies, and local citizens in high-crime areas try to resolve recurrent problems in particular hot spots. Other recent trends in policing include zero-tolerance policies based on the broken windows theory of Wilson and Kelling (1982). The idea is that minor crimes that disturb the quality of life lead to more serious crime; therefore, cracking down on minor crimes can lead to decreases in all crime. All of these policing strategies involve working with the affected communities. Scientifically credible evaluations have not demonstrated the usefulness of these approaches.

Efforts that may or may not involve working with police rely on organizing grassroots efforts to address community problems, including crime. Community organization, which was particularly popular during the 1980s, seemed more successful in affluent than in impoverished neighborhoods. Hope (1995) reports that in high-crime neighborhoods, people are wary of their neighbors and are therefore less likely to join community anti-crime efforts than are those in neighborhoods with less crime. The few credible evaluations of such activities as block watches have failed to show reductions in crime rates (Hope, 1995). Using a quasi-experimental design, Rosenbaum et al. (1986) tested a block watch program in middle-and lower-class neighborhoods in Chicago. Five experimental neighborhoods were selected. These neighborhoods had well-established volun-

Suggested Citation:"Preventing Juvenile Crime." National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. 2001. Juvenile Crime, Juvenile Justice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9747.
×

teer community organizations, were interested in a block watch program, and had the resources to carry out the program. One set of comparison neighborhoods was selected on the basis of having well-established volunteer community organizations. Another set was selected randomly from among neighborhoods with demographic characteristics similar to the experimental neighborhoods. After a year of the intervention, no changes in victimization or in residents' crime prevention activities were found in the experimental areas. Compared with control neighborhoods, those in the experimental areas showed significant increases in fear of crime and decreases in attachment to their neighborhood.

Another popular strategy is the imposition of curfews for juveniles. Curfew laws tend to be enforced primarily in high-crime areas in cities. Evaluation of curfew laws has found no consistent effect on crime reduction (Sherman, 1997a). In a statistical analysis of the effect of curfew enforcement in California, Macallair and Males (1998) found no correlation between strict curfew enforcement and juvenile arrests for crimes, with a few exceptions in areas where curfew enforcement was associated with an increase in juvenile arrests for offenses other than curfew violations.

Community Economic Development and Situational Prevention

Community economic development has grown enormously as a field, based primarily on the production and management of affordable low-income housing. As community groups have become substantial landlords and developers, they have been confronted with issues of public safety and have developed a number of ways of trying to make their housing developments and neighborhoods safer. These include hiring their own private security, working directly with local police, organizing their own tenants and other community residents, and redevelopment of blighted buildings and public areas (Keyes, 1992; Sullivan, 1998). Although not evaluated specifically for their effect on juvenile crime, some of these measures have been found to reduce crime, particularly property crimes— offenses in which juveniles are likely to be involved. Unfortunately, these evaluations seldom use experimental or even quasi-experimental designs.

Closing of streets in high-crime areas has been another tactic aimed particularly at reducing prostitution and drive-by shootings. The one study with particular relevance to juvenile offenses took place in Los Angeles. In 1990, the Los Angeles Police Department installed 14 traffic barriers in a neighborhood with a high level of drug activity, shootings, and homicides, much of the crime gang-related. The traffic barriers were designed to make drive-up drug sales and drive-by shootings more difficult. The barriers were in place for a two-year period. Lasley (1996) compared violent crimes in the area for a year prior to the installation of

Suggested Citation:"Preventing Juvenile Crime." National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. 2001. Juvenile Crime, Juvenile Justice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9747.
×

barriers and for the four years after their removal. In addition, crime rates in four adjacent areas were compared with the crime rate in the experimental area. Homicides declined 65 percent while the barriers were in place, then rose 800 percent in the follow-up period. Other violent crimes also fell during the period the barriers were in place, then rose when they were removed. The adjacent areas had steady crime rates during these same periods. Although the findings suggest that the barriers were helpful in reducing crime, the design of the study makes it impossible to rule out alternative explanations for the differences.

Community Interventions

Comprehensive community initiatives for children and families are a relatively new form of providing social services that emphasize not just individual programs, but also the coordination of different programs in particular local areas and the involvement of local residents in the process. The goals of coordinated community interventions are those of healthy development of children and adolescents, including prevention of delinquency and substance abuses (Catalano et al., 1998; Connell et al., 1995). As noted above, methods for evaluating comprehensive community interventions are still being devised.

Although there have been no evaluations of the effects on juvenile crime of comprehensive community interventions, some more narrow community-based programs aimed at reducing drug, alcohol, and tobacco use among youngsters have found effects on substance use. Pentz et al. (1989a, 1989b, 1989c) reported on the Midwestern Prevention Project, which included mass media, school-based educational curricula, parent education and organization, community organization, and health policy. About one-third of the 6th and 7th grade students from all of the middle schools and junior high schools in Kansas City Standard Metropolitan Sampling Area (as designated in the U.S. census in 1980) were included in the baseline sample. All 6th and 7th grade classes in 16 schools and a random sample of classrooms in the remaining 34 schools were included. By the time the intervention was to be put in place, 6 of the 50 schools had closed and 2 could not schedule the baseline data collection. Of the remaining 42 schools, 8 were randomly assigned to either program or control conditions, 20 schools had the flexibility to institute the intervention programming and were assigned to the program condition, and 14 did not have such flexibility and were assigned to the control condition. Analyses were done using the school as the unit of analysis. In addition, 30 percent of the individual students were tracked, and analyses for them were also completed. Pentz and colleagues found significantly lower cigarette and drug use in intervention schools than in comparison schools

Suggested Citation:"Preventing Juvenile Crime." National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. 2001. Juvenile Crime, Juvenile Justice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9747.
×

and among intervention students compared with control students. Since all students in the area were potentially exposed to the mass media, the researchers concluded that the other components of the program were more effective than the mass media alone (Johnson et al., 1990). A replication of the program using an experimental design in Indianapolis also found reduced cigarette and alcohol use among students who had already initiated use at baseline in the experimental schools (Chou et al., 1998).

Perry et al. (1994) found significantly reduced tobacco use among students in communities in which a seven-year Minnesota Heart Health Program was implemented. The program combined a school-based component with community-wide activities, mass media, and adult education. The study employed a quasi-experimental design, in which a comparison community was matched to the experimental community on population size, socioeconomic makeup, and distance to a large metropolitan area. A similar program, Project Northland, for reduction of alcohol use among adolescents was also tested by Perry et al. (1996). The school districts in six primarily rural counties were blocked by size and randomly assigned to an intervention or control condition. The intervention included parent involvement and education, behavioral curricula for 6th, 7th, and 8th graders, peer leadership training, and community task forces. After three years, students in experimental areas were significantly less likely to use alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana than students in control areas. The researchers noted that the experimental and control communities had some differences at baseline, with more white students in the control communities and greater alcohol use in the experimental communities.

Mentoring

Evaluations of mentoring programs have consistently found that non-contingent, supportive mentoring relationships do not have the desired effects on academic achievement, school attendance, dropout, child behavior, or employment (Dicken et al., 1977; Goodman, 1972; McPartland and Nettles, 1991; Poorjak and Bockelman, 1973; Rowland, 1992; Slicker and Palmer, 1993). When mentors used behavior management techniques, Fo and O'Donnell (1974) found improvement in school attendance. Truancy was reduced when the mentor relationship included reinforcement contingent on appropriate behavior, but not when mentoring did not include contingent reinforcement. This evaluation suffered from a small sample size and short program length. Given the promotion of mentoring in recent years, the techniques used by mentors need more attention and evaluation, especially because there are some indications that some mentoring programs may increase delinquency (O'Donnell et al., 1979).

Suggested Citation:"Preventing Juvenile Crime." National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. 2001. Juvenile Crime, Juvenile Justice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9747.
×

In the Cambridge-Somerville Youth Study, negative effects of treatment were evident. One boy from each matched pairs of boys, all of whom were under the age of 12 and living in poor neighborhoods, was randomly assigned to a treatment group. Those in the treatment group were assigned a counselor who visited them in their homes, at school, and on the streets approximately twice a month for more than five yeas. Boys in the treatment group also received a variety of services, including tutoring, medical and psychiatric care, and recreational activities. McCord (1978, 1981, 1992) found that those who had been in treatment were more likely to have a number of adverse outcomes by middle age, including more convictions for serious crimes.

A more recent evaluation of mentoring reported positive effects on delaying the initiation of drug and alcohol use, on reducing the use of hitting, on improving academic performance, and improving relationships with family. Tierney et al. (1995) randomly assigned youngsters ages 10 to 16 accepted into the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program to be assigned a big brother or big sister or to an 18-month waiting list. Both program and control groups were assessed at time of random assignment and 18 months later through surveys administered to the youth, through surveys administered to the parent or guardian of the youth, and through data collected by the case managers. At 18 months, youngsters in the program group were 46 percent less likely than controls to have initiated drug use and 27 percent less likely to have initiated alcohol use. Program youth were 32 percent less likely than controls to have hit someone in the previous year. Program youth also had better school attendance and grades and better relationships with parent and peers than controls.

Tierney et al. (1995) stressed the importance of the Big Brothers/Big Sisters infrastructure to the pairing of mentors and young people and the development and maintenance of their relationship. Volunteer mentors are carefully screened before being accepted. Training on program requirements, youth development, communication and limit-setting skills, and relationship-building skills are provided for the mentors. Youth and mentors are matched by gender, race (when possible), and interests. Case managers establish regular contact with mentors, parents, and youth. This infrastructure facilitates regular and sustained contact between mentor and young person. A earlier study of Big Brothers/Big Sisters found that 96 percent of mentor-youth matches had at least one meeting in the previous four weeks during the first year of their relationship and averaged 3.1 meetings per 4-week period (Furano et al., 1993). By comparison, studies of less structured mentoring programs found much lower rates of meeting—57 percent meeting on a somewhat regular basis among six campus-based mentoring programs (Tierney and Branch, 1992) and 40 percent of

Suggested Citation:"Preventing Juvenile Crime." National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. 2001. Juvenile Crime, Juvenile Justice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9747.
×

scheduled meetings occurring between mentors and youth in a juvenile justice setting (Mecartney et al., 1994).

Mentors are not the only ones carefully selected for Big Brothers/Big Sisters. In order to participate, a youngster must also be found eligible for the program. The screening process includes a written application, interviews with both parent and youngster, and a home assessment. In addition, both youngster and parent must agree to follow agency rules. Participating youngsters have a high level of motivation to enter the program. Although this evaluation accounts for that level of motivation by its random assignment of qualified youngsters to either program or waiting list conditions, it is possible that a mentoring program such as Big Brothers/ Big Sisters may be less successful for young people who are not as motivated.

After-School and Nonschool-Hours Programs

Increasing attention in recent years has been given to providing children and adolescents with supervised activities during nonschool hours. Although relatively few evaluations of such programs have focused on their effects on delinquency, it seems plausible that providing prosocial activities during the nonschool hours could deter delinquent behavior. Violent offenses by juveniles peak in the after-school hours (Snyder and Sickmund, 1999). Furthermore, parental monitoring and supervision, the lack of which is associated with delinquent behavior, may be missing during after-school hours. By 1997, 78 percent of mothers with children between the ages of 6 and 13 were in the labor market (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1998), making many of them unavailable for child supervision after school. Several studies have found that children's and adolescents' involvement in unsupervised self-care in the company of peers was associated with behavior problems, particularly for juveniles in high-risk environments (Pettit et al., 1999; Vandell and Posner, 1999).

One quasi-experimental study in Ottawa (Jones and Offord, 1989) showed that an after-school and weekend program in which special efforts were made to attract nonparticipants in one housing unit resulted in reduced security arrests, whereas the matched comparison housing unit with some recreational programs that made no attempts to attract non-participants had increasing security problems during the 32 months of program activity. Adult arrests were comparable in both areas. And 16 months after the program ended, the positive changes in the experimental area had diminished significantly. The program actively recruited all children in the housing complex to participate in structured courses for improving skills in sports, music, dance, scouting, and other nonsports activities. The program also encouraged participation in ongoing leagues

Suggested Citation:"Preventing Juvenile Crime." National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. 2001. Juvenile Crime, Juvenile Justice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9747.
×

and other competitive activities in community. Despite cost-effectiveness in terms of reduced vandalism and other minor crimes, the program was not adopted into an ongoing funding stream, a problem that has typified even successful programs.

As discussed in the section on peer group interventions above, grouping high-risk young adolescents, even with adult supervision, has the potential of exacerbating antisocial behavior (Dishion et al., 1999). Vandell and Posner (1999) studied the effects of participating in a formal after-school program among low-income 3rd to 5th graders. Although participating in the program was associated with positive behavioral outcomes for 3rd graders, for 5th graders program participation was associated with increased school and behavioral problems. Upon further analysis, it appeared that the 5th grade participants had been more troubled prior to the program than were the 3rd graders. The increasing salience of peers as children age, coupled with the association with a more troubled group of peers, may have been a factor in the negative outcomes for 5th graders.

Feldman and colleagues (Feldman, 1992; Feldman et al., 1983) examined the group makeup of programs on their outcomes for antisocial boys. They placed antisocial boys who had been referred by juvenile courts, special schools, mental health facilities, and residential treatment centers into programs at a suburban community center. Boys who regularly participated in programs at the community center (nonreferred) were also included in the study. Boys were randomly assigned to a group composed of all referred boys, of all nonreferred boys, or in mixed groups composed of one or two referred boys in a group of nonreferred boys. Groups met once per week during the school year and participated in a wide range of recreational and leisure activities. Referred boys in the mixed groups significantly reduced their antisocial behaviors and increased their prosocial behaviors over the course of the year, but referred boys in the nonmixed group did not show decreases in antisocial behavior. Furthermore, the nonreferred boys in the mixed group were not negatively affected by their association with the referred boys; there was no significant difference between them and the nonreferred boys in the nonmixed group. This study showed the potential for improving the behaviors among at-risk boys by grouping a small number of them with a group of predominantly prosocial boys.

Job Training

Job training programs have long been a part of efforts to improve the conditions of the poor. Since lack of opportunities to earn money in legitimate jobs is a risk factor for participation in crime, improving the chances for legitimate employment may reduce crime rates among young

Suggested Citation:"Preventing Juvenile Crime." National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. 2001. Juvenile Crime, Juvenile Justice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9747.
×

people. A recent evaluation of Job Corps (Schochet et al., 2000) found positive short-term effects of participation among 16- and 17-year-olds, including reduced rates of arrest, incarceration, and conviction. Job Corps is a comprehensive, residential program3 that provides academic and vocational training, health care and education, counseling, and job placement assistance. The program is available to economically disadvantaged youth, ages 16 to 24, who are high school dropouts or in need of additional education or training; are not on probation or parole; are free of serious medical or behavioral problems; and who come from disruptive environments. Participants may be enrolled in Job Corps for up to two years.

A random sample of all first-time Job Corps eligible applicants between November 1994 and December 1995 were randomly assigned to the research treatment group or a control group. The control group members were not allowed to enroll in Job Corps for three years, but could participate in any other available programs. Both groups were interviewed 12 months and 30 months after random assignment. At the 30 month follow-up, the treatment group had increased their education and earnings more than the control group, and had significantly reduced their involvement in the criminal justice system. Results for 16- and 17-year-olds were particularly encouraging: their arrest rates dropped by 14 percent and incarceration rates by 26 percent (Schochet et al., 2000). A four year follow-up is planned to investigate longer term impacts.

CONCLUSIONS

Our review of attempts at intervention has turned up very few successful programs that have credible evaluations. Work with pregnant women, with preschool children and their mothers, with teachers and their parents in high-risk neighborhoods have been shown, using scientifically appropriate evaluations, to have clear benefits in terms of reducing delinquency. But several widely used intervention strategies have been found to increase delinquency. Many such programs rest on drawing young misbehaving adolescents together. The panel concluded that innovative approaches to delivering interventions, which avoid the danger of grouping misbehaving adolescents, should be encouraged.

The most effective crime prevention programs, the panel concluded, addressed a range of difficulties. Thus, rather than targeting crime alone, successful preschool approaches helped young mothers teach their chil-

3  

About 90 percent of the participants live in supervised dormitory housing; the remainder participate on a nonresidential basis.

Suggested Citation:"Preventing Juvenile Crime." National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. 2001. Juvenile Crime, Juvenile Justice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9747.
×

dren, improved the health of pregnant women and their infants, and encouraged education in the classrooms.

Based on its review of the literature on preventing delinquency, the panel drew the following conclusions:

  • Programs that facilitate healthy births, infancy, and childhood appear to be effective crime prevention interventions.

  • Programs that include multiple components for parents, youngsters, and environment (school or community) and that target multiple behaviors appear more beneficial than narrowly focused programs.

Public concern about juvenile crime should be used to encourage adequate, scientifically credible evaluations of the programs instituted to address that concern.

RECOMMENDATIONS

A variety of interventions with infants, preschoolers, and elementary school children have been found to successfully reduce risk factors for delinquency. It is frequently assumed that reducing known risk factors associated with delinquency will result in reduced delinquency. Few of the studies, however, have long enough follow-up periods to assess whether criminal delinquency is actually reduced. Although reducing various risk factors may be a positive outcome in and of itself, it is important to know which preventive interventions have long-term effects on delinquency and crime. Mounting follow-up studies of participants from programs that were shown to be effective in reducing risk factors for delinquency is also a relatively inexpensive research strategy.

Recommendation: Federal agencies concerned with the development of youth, in particular the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the National Institute of Justice, the National Institute for Mental Health, and the National Institute on Child Health and Human Development, should encourage and fund studies of long-term outcomes for well-designed interventions that have shown short-term promise for reducing risk factors for delinquency.

Although evaluation research has resulted in some information about what types of programs may be effective in preventing delinquency, much remains to be known. Is it best for a program to begin prenatally? Is there an ideal length of program delivery? Are some programs more effective for certain types of children or families or at certain ages? Which programs are counter productive? Some relatively well-evaluated programs, such as D.A.R.E. and shock incarceration programs (see Chapter 5) have

Suggested Citation:"Preventing Juvenile Crime." National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. 2001. Juvenile Crime, Juvenile Justice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9747.
×

been shown to have little impact on the targeted behavior and even counter productive impacts among some populations. Until aspects of programs are systematically varied and well evaluated, these questions will remain.

Recommendation: All publicly supported intervention programs should be evaluated for both safety and efficacy using scientifically credible methods for doing so. Adequate funding for such evaluations should be included in the public support of intervention programs. Funding for programs whose effectiveness is shown to be limited should be discontinued.

Placing one or two antisocial juveniles in a group of primarily prosocial young people can decrease their antisocial behavior and increase their prosocial behavior without negatively influencing the prosocial youngsters. Some well-designed evaluations of treatments for at-risk juveniles found, however, that placing such youngsters in groups, even under careful adult supervision, had the undesired outcome of increasing their antisocial behavior.

Recommendation: Federal and state funds should be used to develop treatments for misbehaving youngsters that do not aggregate aggressive or antisocial youth.

Suggested Citation:"Preventing Juvenile Crime." National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. 2001. Juvenile Crime, Juvenile Justice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9747.
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Next: The Juvenile Justice System »
Juvenile Crime, Juvenile Justice Get This Book
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Even though youth crime rates have fallen since the mid-1990s, public fear and political rhetoric over the issue have heightened. The Columbine shootings and other sensational incidents add to the furor. Often overlooked are the underlying problems of child poverty, social disadvantage, and the pitfalls inherent to adolescent decisionmaking that contribute to youth crime. From a policy standpoint, adolescent offenders are caught in the crossfire between nurturance of youth and punishment of criminals, between rehabilitation and "get tough" pronouncements. In the midst of this emotional debate, the National Research Council's Panel on Juvenile Crime steps forward with an authoritative review of the best available data and analysis. Juvenile Crime, Juvenile Justice presents recommendations for addressing the many aspects of America's youth crime problem.

This timely release discusses patterns and trends in crimes by children and adolescents--trends revealed by arrest data, victim reports, and other sources; youth crime within general crime; and race and sex disparities. The book explores desistance--the probability that delinquency or criminal activities decrease with age--and evaluates different approaches to predicting future crime rates.

Why do young people turn to delinquency? Juvenile Crime, Juvenile Justice presents what we know and what we urgently need to find out about contributing factors, ranging from prenatal care, differences in temperament, and family influences to the role of peer relationships, the impact of the school policies toward delinquency, and the broader influences of the neighborhood and community. Equally important, this book examines a range of solutions:

  • Prevention and intervention efforts directed to individuals, peer groups, and families, as well as day care-, school- and community-based initiatives.
  • Intervention within the juvenile justice system.
  • Role of the police.
  • Processing and detention of youth offenders.
  • Transferring youths to the adult judicial system.
  • Residential placement of juveniles.

The book includes background on the American juvenile court system, useful comparisons with the juvenile justice systems of other nations, and other important information for assessing this problem.

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