Risk and Protective Factors of Child Delinquency by pjv36417

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									U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Justice Programs
Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention

                                      B u l l e t i n                           S e r i e s
J. Robert Flores, Administrator                                                                                                April 2003

                                                   Risk and Protective Factors
                                                   of Child Delinquency
                                                   Gail A. Wasserman, Kate Keenan, Richard E. Tremblay, John D. Coie,
   Preventing children from engaging
                                                   Todd I. Herrenkohl, Rolf Loeber, and David Petechuk
   in delinquent behavior is one of
   OJJDP’s primary goals. Early inter-
   vention is crucial to achieving this
   goal, and understanding the factors             Sparked by high-profile cases involving       Some aspects of children’s behaviors,
   related to child delinquency is essen-          children who commit violent crimes, pub-      such as temperament, are established
   tial to effective early childhood inter-
                                                   lic concerns regarding child delinquents      during the first 5 years of life. This foun-
   vention. As part of its effort to under-
   stand and respond to these needs,               have escalated. Compared with juveniles       dation, coupled with children’s exposure
   OJJDP formed the Study Group on                 whose delinquent behavior begins later in     to certain risk and protective factors,
   Very Young Offenders.                           adolescence, child delinquents (offenders     influences the likelihood of children
                                                   younger than age 13) face a greater risk      becoming delinquent at a young age.
   This Bulletin, part of OJJDP’s Child
                                                   of becoming serious, violent, and chronic     However, the identification of these
   Delinquency Series, focuses on four
   types of risk and protective factors:
                                                   juvenile offenders. OJJDP formed the          multiple risk and protective factors has
   individual, family, peer, and school            Study Group on Very Young Offenders to        proven to be a difficult task. Although
   and community. It is derived from               examine the prevalence and frequency          no magic solutions exist for preventing
   the chapters devoted to these critical          of offending by children younger than 13.     or correcting child delinquency, identify-
   areas for prevention and intervention           This Study Group identified particular risk   ing risk and protective factors remains
   in the Study Group’s final report,              and protective factors that are crucial to    essential to developing interventions to
   Child Delinquents: Development,                 developing effective early intervention       prevent child delinquency from escalat-
   Intervention, and Service Needs.
                                                   and protection programs for very young        ing into chronic criminality.
   To succeed, intervention methods                offenders.
   designed to prevent child delinquency                                                         According to the Study Group on Very
   from escalating into serious and vio-           This Bulletin is part of OJJDP’s Child        Young Offenders, a group of 39 experts
   lent juvenile offending must address            Delinquency Series, which presents the        on child delinquency and child psy-
   a range of risk and protective factors.         findings of the Study Group on Very Young     chopathology convened by the Office
   In addition to the factors addressed            Offenders. This series offers the latest      of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency
   in this Bulletin, OJJDP is pursuing
                                                   information about child delinquency, in-      Prevention (OJJDP), risk factors for
   research to examine the role of reli-
   gious traditions and training as pro-           cluding analyses of child delinquency sta-    child delinquency operate in several
   tective factors in the life of a child.         tistics, insights into the origins of very    domains: the individual child, the
                                                   young offending, and descriptions of early    child’s family, the child’s peer group,
   Preventing delinquency early in a               intervention programs and approaches          the child’s school, the child’s neighbor-
   child’s life can pay significant divi-
                                                   that work to prevent the development of       hood, and the media. Most profession-
   dends by reducing crime rates and
   decreasing crime-related expendi-               delinquent behavior by focusing on risk       als agree that no single risk factor leads
   tures of tax dollars. More important,           and protective factors.                       a young child to delinquency. Rather,
   it can help children avoid the conse-
   quences of delinquent behavior by
   increasing their chances of leading
   law-abiding and productive lives.
                                                         Access OJJDP publications online at ojjdp.ncjrs.org
the likelihood of early juvenile offending
increases as the number of risk factors         Child Delinquency Research: An Overview
and risk factor domains increases.              Historically, delinquency studies have focused on later adolescence, the time when
                                                delinquency usually peaks. This was particularly true in the 1990s, when most re-
Although some risk factors are common
                                                searchers studied chronic juvenile offenders because they committed a dispropor-
to many child delinquents, the patterns
                                                tionately large amount of crime. Research conducted during this period by OJJDP’s
and particular combination of risk fac-
                                                Study Group on Serious and Violent Juvenile Offenders concluded that youth re-
tors vary from child to child. Profes-
                                                ferred to juvenile court for their first delinquent offense before age 13 are far more
sionals have learned a great deal about
                                                likely to become chronic offenders than youth first referred to court at a later age.
which risk and protective factors are
                                                To better understand the implications of this finding, OJJDP convened the Study
relevant for screening and intervention.
                                                Group on Very Young Offenders in 1998. Its charge was to analyze existing data and
For example, most professionals agree
                                                to address key issues that had not previously been studied in the literature. Consist-
that early on in a child’s life, the most
                                                ing of 16 primary study group members and 23 coauthors who are experts on child
important risks stem from individual
                                                delinquency and psychopathology, the Study Group found evidence that some
factors (e.g., birth complications, hyper-
                                                young children engage in very serious antisocial behavior and that, in some cases,
activity, sensation seeking, temperamen-
                                                this behavior foreshadows early delinquency. The Study Group also identified sev-
tal difficulties) and family factors (e.g.,
                                                eral important risk factors that, when combined, may be related to the onset of early
parental antisocial or criminal behavior,
                                                offending. The Study Group report concluded with a review of preventive and reme-
substance abuse, and poor child-rearing
                                                dial interventions relevant to child delinquency.
practices). As the child grows older and
becomes integrated into society, new            The Child Delinquency Bulletin Series is drawn from the Study Group’s final report,
risk factors related to peer influences,        which was completed in 2001 under grant number 95–JD–FX–0018 and subsequent-
the school, and the community begin             ly published by Sage Publications as Child Delinquents: Development, Intervention,
to play a larger role.                          and Service Needs (edited by Rolf Loeber and David P. Farrington). OJJDP encour-
                                                ages parents, educators, and the juvenile justice community to use this information
Although focusing on risk factors is            to address the needs of young offenders by planning and implementing more effec-
important, examining protective factors         tive interventions.
that reduce the risk of delinquency is
as important for identifying interven-
tions that are likely to work. For exam-      The risk factors for child delinquency        Antisocial Behavior
ple, some common protective factors           discussed in this Bulletin are categorized
                                                                                            Early antisocial behavior may be the
against child delinquency and disrup-         into four groups: (1) individual, (2) fami-
                                                                                            best predictor of later delinquency. Anti-
tive behavior are female gender, proso-       ly, (3) peer, and (4) school and commu-
                                                                                            social behaviors generally include vari-
cial behavior (such as empathy) during        nity. A greater understanding of these
                                                                                            ous forms of oppositional rule violation
the preschool years, and good cognitive       risk and protective factors could serve
                                                                                            and aggression, such as theft, physical
performance (for example, appropriate         as the basis for future social policies
                                                                                            fighting, and vandalism. In fact, early
language development and good aca-            designed to prevent and control delin-
                                                                                            aggression appears to be the most signif-
demic performance). The proportion of         quency (see Burns et al., in press, anoth-
                                                                                            icant social behavior characteristic to
protective factors to risk factors has a      er OJJDP Bulletin in this series).
                                                                                            predict delinquent behavior before age
significant influence on child delinquen-
                                                                                            13. In one study, physical aggression in
cy, and protective factors may offset the
influence of children’s exposure to mul-      Individual Risk Factors                       kindergarten was the best and only pre-
                                                                                            dictor of later involvement in property
tiple risk factors.                           Children’s behavior is the result of          crimes (Haapasalo and Tremblay, 1994;
                                              genetic, social, and environmental fac-       Tremblay et al., 1994). In contrast, proso-
This Bulletin is based on four chapters       tors. In relation to child delinquency,
from the Study Group’s final report,                                                        cial behavior (such as helping, sharing,
                                              the Study Group defined individual risk       and cooperation), as rated by teachers,
Child Delinquents: Development, Inter-        and protective factors as an individual’s
vention, and Service Needs (Loeber and                                                      appeared to be a protective factor, specif-
                                              genetic, emotional, cognitive, physical,      ically for those who have risk factors for
Farrington, 2001): “Individual Risk and       and social characteristics. These fac-
Protective Factors,” “Family Risk and                                                       committing violent and property crimes
                                              tors are frequently interrelated, yet         before age 13.
Protective Factors,” “Peer Factors and        the underlying mechanism of how this
Interventions,” and “School and Com-          occurs is not fully understood.               Studies conducted in Canada, England,
munity Risk Factors and Interventions.”
                                                                                            New Zealand, Sweden, and the United

                                                                                             behaviors. By the end of the third year
  Childhood Risk Factors for Child Delinquency                                               of life, children can express the entire
  and Later Violent Juvenile Offending                                                       range of human emotions, including
                                                                                             anger, pride, shame, and guilt. Parents,
  The following risk factors are discussed in this Bulletin.
                                                                                             teachers, and even peers affect chil-
  Individual factors                              ●   Family structure                       dren’s socialization of emotional expres-
                                                                                             sion and help them learn to manage
  ●   Early antisocial behavior                   ●   Large family size                      negative emotions constructively. Thus,
  ●   Emotional factors such as high              Peer factors                               how children express emotions, espe-
      behavioral activation and low                                                          cially anger, early in life may contribute
                                                  ●   Association with deviant peers
      behavioral inhibition                                                                  to or reduce their risk for delinquency.
                                                  ●   Peer rejection
  ●   Poor cognitive development                                                             Many studies of delinquency have
                                                  School and community factors               focused on the concepts of behavioral
  ●   Low intelligence
                                                  ●   Failure to bond to school              inhibition and behavioral activation.
  ●   Hyperactivity                                                                          Behavioral inhibition (in response to a
                                                  ●   Poor academic performance              new stimulus or punishment) includes
  Family factors
                                                  ●   Low academic aspirations               fearfulness, anxiety, timidity, and shyness.
  ●   Parenting                                                                              Behavioral activation includes novelty
                                                  ●   Living in a poor family                and sensation seeking, impulsivity,
  ●   Maltreatment
                                                  ●   Neighborhood disadvantage              hyperactivity, and predatory aggression.
  ●   Family violence                                                                        The Study Group found evidence that
                                                  ●   Disorganized neighborhoods             high levels of behavioral activation and
  ●   Divorce
                                                  ●   Concentration of delinquent            low levels of behavioral inhibition are
  ●   Parental psychopathology                                                               risk factors for antisocial behavior. For
                                                      peer groups
  ●   Familial antisocial behaviors                                                          example, high levels of daring behavior
                                                  ●   Access to weapons                      at ages 8–10 predicted convictions and
  ●   Teenage parenthood                                                                     self-reported delinquency before age 21,
                                                                                             whereas measures of anxiety and guilt
  Source: This list is largely based on R. Loeber and D.P. Farrington, eds. 2001. Child      did not (Farrington, 1998). Overall, stud-
  Delinquents: Development, Intervention, and Service Needs. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage
  Publications, Inc.                                                                         ies have shown that impulsive, not anx-
                                                                                             ious, boys are more likely to commit
                                                                                             delinquent acts at 12 to 13 years of age.
States have confirmed that early anti-           In another study, the two best predic-      More studies are needed to determine
social behavior tends to be the best             tors of later antisocial behavior were      whether emotional characteristics in
predictor of early-onset delinquency             mothers’ ratings of their children as       childhood are causes of or simply corre-
for boys. For example, in a study by             difficult to manage at 3 years of age and   lates of later antisocial behavior.
Patterson and colleagues, antisocial             parents’ ratings of behavior problems at
behavior was the best predictor of age           5 years of age (White et al., 1990). Most   Cognitive Development
at first arrest when compared with family        children whose caregivers perceived
                                                                                             Emotional and cognitive development
social disadvantage, parental monitoring,        them as difficult to manage at age 3 did
                                                                                             appear to be associated with children’s
and parental discipline. Long-term results       not become delinquents before age 13.
                                                                                             ability to control social behavior within
also indicated that those with an early          However, most children who became
                                                                                             the first 2 years of life. Evidence sug-
arrest (before age 13) were most likely to       delinquents before age 13 had behavior
                                                                                             gests that these factors play an impor-
be chronic offenders by age 18 (Patterson,       problems that had emerged in the first
                                                                                             tant role in the development of early
Crosby, and Vuchinich, 1992; Patterson           years of life.
                                                                                             delinquency and may affect the learning
et al., 1998). Likewise, the Cambridge
                                                                                             of social rules. In addition to traditional
Study in Delinquent Development in
London, England, showed that one of              Emotional Factors                           measures such as IQ, the Study Group
                                                 Although early aggressive behavior is       considered cognitive development in
the strongest predictors of a conviction
                                                 the most apparent and best predictor of     terms of language development, social
between ages 10 and 13 was trouble-
                                                 later delinquency, other individual fac-    cognition, academic achievement, and
some behavior between the ages of 8
                                                 tors may contribute to later antisocial     neuropsychological function.
and 10, as rated by teachers and peers
(Farrington, 1986).

  The Terrible Twos
  The Study Group identified evidence
  linking behavior problems around
  age 3 with delinquency by age 13.
  Antisocial behaviors, such as anger
  and physical aggression, can appear
  during the first year of life but often
  peak at the end of the second year
  after birth. Thus, before age 3, most
  children engage in behavior that
  would be considered antisocial at a
  later age, including physical aggres-
  sion. However, most children out-
  grow early problem behavior. The
  ones who do not outgrow such
  behavior are of concern here be-
  cause of the increased risk that they
  may become child delinquents.             behavior (e.g., Farrington, Loeber, and
                                            Van Kammen, 1990; Lynam, 1997). Clin-
                                                                                         Family Risk Factors
                                            ical studies of hyperactive children         Children and their families defy narrow
Poor cognitive development and behav-       have shown that they also are at high        descriptions. Social, environmental, and
ior problems during early childhood         risk of delinquency (e.g., Loeber et al.,    family risk factors tend to cluster, and
could explain the association between       1995). For example, motor restlessness       any number of them can occur together
academic achievement and delinquency.       (hyperactive or hyperkinetic behavior),      within the same family. Understanding
For example, numerous studies have          as rated by kindergarten teachers,           the role and influence of each of these
shown that delinquents’ verbal IQs tend     was a better predictor of delinquency        factors is a difficult task. For example,
to be lower than their nonverbal IQs        between ages 10 and 13 than lack of          early child offending may develop through
(e.g., Moffitt, 1993). Delinquents also     prosocial behavior and low anxiety           several pathways. For some children,
have lower mean global IQs and lower        (Tremblay et al., 1994). Another study       the primary risk factor may be a family
school achievement rates compared           concluded that hyperactivity leads to        risk factor such as lack of parental super-
with nondelinquents (e.g., Fergusson        delinquency only when it occurs with         vision; for others, it may be an individ-
and Horwood, 1995; Maguin and Loeber,       physical aggression or oppositional          ual risk factor such as a diagnosis of
1996).                                      behavior (Lahey, McBurnett, and              attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
                                            Loeber, 2000).                               (Cicchetti and Rogosch, 1996).
Mild neuropsychological deficits pres-
ent at birth can snowball into serious
behavior problems by affecting an
infant’s temperament (Moffitt, 1993).
                                              A Question About Biological Factors
These deficits can affect children’s          All behavior, including delinquency, is influenced by biological factors. These fac-
control of behaviors such as language,        tors include not only physical strength but also brain functioning, such as neuro-
aggression, oppositional behavior, at-        transmitters that pass signals to the brain. Serotonin receptors, for instance, are
tention, and hyperactivity. Basic cogni-      neurotransmitters that have been associated with impulsive behavior (Goldman,
tive deficits may also be associated with     Lappalainen, and Ozaki, 1996). Other biological factors have also been associated
impaired social cognitive processes,          with delinquency. Compared to nondelinquents, delinquents tend to have a lower
such as failure to attend to appropriate      heart rate and a lower skin response (Raine, 1993), which are measures of autonomic
social cues (e.g., adults’ instructions,      nervous activity. Another line of research has concentrated on hormones, including
peers’ social initiations).                   testosterone. However, a high level of testosterone during the elementary school
                                              years is not known to predict later delinquency. Currently, research on genes has
                                              come as far as the identification of proteins associated with neurotransmitters, but
Hyperactivity                                 it is unlikely to shed light on complex processes such as delinquency (Rowe, 2002).
Studies have shown that restless,             In summary, it is far from clear to what extent biological processes determine delin-
squirmy, and fidgety children are more        quency at a young age.
likely to be involved in later delinquent

Studies have shown that inadequate            1996). In the Pittsburgh Youth Study,        factors that impose additional risk in
child-rearing practices, home discord,        the co-occurrence of low levels of moni-     violent families include a high incidence
and child maltreatment are associated         toring and high levels of punishment         of other behavior problems (e.g., alco-
with early-onset delinquency (e.g.,           increased the risk of delinquency in 7-      hol abuse and incarceration) in male
Derzon and Lipsey, 2000). In addition,        to 13-year-old boys. Conversely, attach-     batterers. Maternal psychological dis-
the strongest predictors of early-onset       ments to conventional parents and to         tress may also expose children to addi-
violence include family size and parental     society’s institutions are hypothesized      tional indirect risks, such as the mother
antisocial history. Early temperamental       to protect against developing antisocial     being emotionally unavailable to the
difficulties in the child coupled with        behavior (Hirschi, 1969).                    children (e.g., Zuckerman et al., 1995).
parental deficiencies that interfere with
proactive parenting are also thought to
be important in the development of early-     Maltreatment                                 Divorce
onset behavior problems.                      Child maltreatment or abuse commonly         Compared with boys whose parents
                                              occurs with other family risk factors        remained married, boys whose parents
In looking at the clustering of family risk   associated with early-onset offending.       divorced have been found to be more
factors, one goal is to identify which        Focusing specifically on the relationship    likely to have continuing problems with
combinations of risk factors promote          between physical abuse and children’s        antisocial, coercive, and noncompliant
early misbehavior because, more than          aggression, one study suggests that          behaviors through age 10 (Hetherington,
likely, early misbehavior is the result of    20 percent of abused children become         1989). As with many family factors,
an accumulation of a number of factors.       delinquent before reaching adulthood         establishing the exact effects of divorce
The number of risk factors and stres-         (Lewis, Mallouh, and Webb, 1989). Clearly,   on children is difficult because of other
sors and the length of exposure to them       most physically abused children do not       co-occurring risks, such as the loss
have a strong impact on child behavior        go on to become antisocial or violent.       of a parent, other related negative life
(e.g., Tiet et al., 1998; Williams et al.,    However, one study that compared chil-       events (e.g., predivorce child behavior
1990).                                        dren without a history of abuse or neg-      problems, family conflict, decrease in
                                              lect with children who had been abused       family income), and a parent’s subse-
A number of social adversities in fami-       or neglected found that the latter group     quent remarriage. When these related
lies can affect children’s delinquency.       accrued more juvenile and adult arrests      factors are considered, the impact of
These factors include parenting, mal-         by the age of 25 (Widom, 1989). Abused       divorce itself is substantially less.
treatment, family violence, divorce,          or neglected children also offended
parental psychopathology, familial anti-      more frequently and began doing so
social behaviors, teenage parenthood,         at earlier ages.
                                                                                           Parental Psychopathology
family structure, and family size.                                                         High rates (as high as 45 percent) of
                                                                                           parental antisocial personality disorder
                                              Family Violence                              have been consistently reported for
Parenting                                                                                  parents of boys (including preadoles-
                                              Each year, approximately 3.3 million
Inadequate parenting practices are            children witness physical and verbal         cents) referred for conduct problems
among the most powerful predictors of         spouse abuse (Jaffe, Wolfe, and Wilson,      (e.g., Lahey et al., 1988). Similar rates
early antisocial behavior (e.g., Hawkins      1990). Witnessing domestic violence          occurred for parental substance abuse
et al., 1998). Compared with families         has been linked to increased child           and depression (Robins, 1966). Depressed
in which the children do not have con-        behavior problems, especially for            parents show many parenting deficien-
duct problems, families of young chil-        boys and younger children (Reid and          cies associated with increased antisocial
dren with conduct problems have been          Crisafulli, 1990). Little is known about     behaviors in children, such as inconsis-
found to be eight times more likely to        the age range in which children may be       tency, irritability, and lack of supervision
engage in conflicts involving discipline,     most vulnerable or how long associa-         (Cummings and Davies, 1994). Parental
to engage in half as many positive inter-     tions persist. In most families, when the    psychopathology has been linked to
actions, and, often unintentionally, to       woman is battered, children are also         increased rates of psychiatric disorder
reinforce negative child behavior (Gard-      battered (McKibben, De Vos, and New-         among school-aged children (Costello
ner, 1987; Patterson and Stouthamer-          berger, 1989). The co-occurrence of          et al., 1997). The Pittsburgh Youth Study
Loeber, 1984). Three specific parental        child abuse and witnessing domestic          found that the association between
practices are particularly associated         violence affects children’s adjustment       delinquency and parental anxiety or
with early conduct problems: (1) a high       more than twice as much as witness-          depression was stronger in younger than
level of parent-child conflict, (2) poor      ing domestic violence alone (Hughes,         in older children (Loeber et al., 1998).
monitoring, and (3) a low level of posi-      Parkinson, and Vargo, 1989). Other
tive involvement (Wasserman et al.,

Familial Antisocial Behaviors                Belle, 1980), have higher levels of resi-
                                             dential mobility (McLanahan and Booth,          Sibling Influences
A long history of research demonstrates
                                             1989; McCormick, Workman-Daniels,
that aggressive behavior and criminal-                                                       Based on data from the 1979 National
                                             and Brooks-Gunn, 1996), and have fewer
ity are more prevalent in some families                                                      Longitudinal Survey of Youth, a num-
                                             resources to monitor their children’s
than in others. For example, the Cam-                                                        ber of publications have underscored
                                             activities and whereabouts. Each of
bridge Study in Delinquent Development,                                                      the role played by siblings in influenc-
                                             these factors on its own contributes
which followed 411 families, found that                                                      ing delinquent behavior in both the
                                             to increased levels of early childhood
offending was strongly concentrated in a                                                     domains of family and peer influence.
                                             behavior problems.
small group of families and that approxi-                                                    For example, compared with teens
mately 5 percent of the families account-                                                    with lower rates of offending, teens
ed for about half of the juvenile criminal   Family Size                                     with high rates of offending were
convictions (West and Farrington, 1977).                                                     more likely to have siblings who also
                                             The more children in a family, the
                                             greater the risk of delinquency. The            committed delinquent acts at a high
Antisocial adults tend to select antiso-                                                     rate. Some studies speculate that
                                             Cambridge Study found that, compared
cial partners (e.g., Farrington, Barnes,                                                     older siblings who are prone to delin-
                                             with boys who had fewer siblings, boys
and Lambert, 1996). Overall, antisocial                                                      quent behavior may reinforce anti-
                                             who had four or more siblings by the
parents show increased levels of family                                                      social behavior in a younger sibling,
                                             age of 10 were twice as likely to offend,
conflict, exercise poorer supervision,                                                       especially when there is a close, warm
                                             regardless of the parents’ socioeconomic
experience more family breakdown, and                                                        relationship (Rowe and Gulley, 1992).
                                             status (West and Farrington, 1973). These
direct more hostility toward their chil-
                                             associations may be related to dimin-
dren. In addition, having an antisocial
                                             ished supervision in larger families.
sibling also increases a child’s likeli-
hood of antisocial behaviors (e.g., Far-                                                   words, do “birds of a feather flock togeth-
rington, 1995). The influences of siblings                                                 er” or does “bad company corrupt”?
are stronger when the siblings are close
                                             Peer Risk Factors
in age.                                      Peer influences on child delinquency          The Study Group found that a strong case
                                             usually appear developmentally later          could be made that deviant peers influ-
                                             than do individual and family influ-          ence nondelinquent juveniles to become
Teenage Parenthood                           ences. Many children entering school,         delinquent. For example, according to
Being born to a teenage mother has           for example, already show aggressive          data from the National Youth Survey on
been found to strongly predict offending     and disruptive behaviors. Two major           a representative sample of U.S. juveniles
in adolescence (Conseur et al., 1997),       mechanisms associated with peer fac-          ages 11 to 17, the most frequent pattern
although much of this effect may stem        tors or influences are association with       was a child moving from association
from the mother’s own antisocial histo-      deviant peers and peer rejection.             with nondelinquent peers to association
ry and involvement with antisocial part-                                                   with slightly deviant peers, and then on
ners (Rutter, Giller, and Hagell 1998).                                                    to commission of minor offenses. More
                                             Association With Deviant                      frequent association with deviant peers
                                             Peers                                         and more serious offending followed,
Family Structure                             Association with deviant peers is related     leading to the highest level of associa-
Many single parents are able to raise        to increased co-offending and, in a minor-    tion with deviant peers (Elliott and
their children very well. However, chil-     ity of cases, the joining of gangs. Since a   Menard, 1996; Keenan et al., 1995).
dren from single-mother households are       1931 report showing that 80 percent of
at increased risk for poor behavioral        Chicago juvenile delinquents were             Deviant peers influence juveniles who
outcome (Pearson et al., 1994; Vaden-        arrested with co-offenders, empirical         already have some history of delinquent
Kiernan et al., 1995; McLanahan and          evidence has supported the theory that        behavior to increase the severity or
Booth, 1989; Sampson, 1987), even con-       deviant peer associations contribute          frequency of their offending. A few stud-
trolling for the fact that single-mother     to juvenile offending (Shaw and McKay,        ies of children younger than 14 support
households on average have fewer eco-        1931). The unresolved question is             this hypothesis. For example, in a study
nomic resources. Other factors could         whether deviant peers model and rein-         of Iowa juveniles, involvement in the
explain this relationship. Especially as     force antisocial behaviors or whether         juvenile justice system was highest for
compared with partnered women, sin-          the association with deviant peers is         those who engaged in disruptive behav-
gle mothers report more mental health        simply another manifestation of a child’s     ior and associated with deviant peers at
problems (e.g., Guttentag, Salasin, and      predisposition to delinquency. In other       a young age (Simons et al., 1994). The
                                                                                           Study Group concluded that deviant

peers contribute to serious offending       hyperactivity problems and conduct
by child delinquents during the period      problems in fourth grade.
                                                                                         School and Community
of their transition to adolescence.                                                      Risk Factors
                                            One explanation for the role of peer         Few studies have addressed risk factors
Although an extreme form of associa-        rejection in increasing antisocial be-       that emerge from young children’s social-
tion with deviant peers, gangs provide      haviors is that it leads to greater suspi-   ization in schools and communities. The
a ready source of co-offenders. Not sur-    ciousness of other people’s motives as       Study Group focused on a social devel-
prisingly, gang membership reflects the     hostile and hence to greater aggression      opment model integrating insights from
highest degree of deviant peer influence    in response. A second explanation is         current theories that consider the influ-
on offending. The Rochester Youth De-       that rejection causes children to have       ence of community and schools on child
velopment Study, the Denver Youth Sur-      fewer positive social options and, conse-    delinquents (Catalano and Hawkins, 1996;
vey, and the Seattle Social Development     quently, to become part of lower status      Farrington and Hawkins, 1991; Hawkins
Project have all shown that gangs appear    and deviant peer groups. Rejected,           and Weis, 1985). The model proposes
to exert a considerable influence on the    aggressive children are more likely than     that socialization involves the same
delinquent behavior of individual mem-      others to be members of deviant peer         processes in producing either prosocial
bers. Juveniles are joining gangs at        groups and tend to be peripheral mem-        or antisocial behaviors. These processes
younger ages, and the role of gangs in      bers of these groups (Bagwell et al.,        include the following:
crimes committed by youthful offenders      2000). Their tenuous sense of belonging
appears to be an increasing problem         may dispose them to engage in more           ●   Children’s opportunity for involve-
(Howell, 1998). In the case of violence,    antisocial activity in an effort to gain         ment in activities and interactions
even after accounting for other risk        standing in these groups.                        with others.
factors (such as association with delin-
                                                                                         ●   Children’s degree of involvement
quent peers who are not gang members,       Peer rejection and deviant peers are
                                                                                             and interaction with others.
family poverty, lack of parental supervi-   mediating factors rather than primary
sion, and negative life events), gang       causes of child delinquency. As shown        ●   Children’s ability (skills) to partici-
membership still has the strongest rela-    in the diagram (on page 8), early com-           pate in these involvements and
tionship with self-reported violence        munity, family, and individual risk fac-         interactions.
(Battin et al., 1998).                      tors can lead to early aggressive and
                                                                                         ●   Reinforcements received from indi-
                                            disruptive behaviors. The already “at-
                                            risk” child then enters school, where            viduals for children’s performance
Peer Rejection                              peer risk factors can culminate in pre-          in involvements and interactions
The evidence that peer rejection in         adolescent or very early adolescent              with others.
childhood is a risk factor for antisocial   serious offending. The Study Group
behaviors is relatively new compared        concluded that three factors combine
with evidence about association with        to account for a juvenile’s accelerated
deviant peers. Recent findings have         movement toward more serious offend-
shown that young aggressive children        ing in early adolescence:
who are rejected by peers are at signifi-
                                            ●   The high-risk juvenile’s own anti-
cantly greater risk for later chronic
                                                social tendencies.
antisocial behaviors than children who
are not rejected, whether or not they       ●   The negative consequences of peer
were aggressive early on. For example,          rejection resulting from these
one study found that peer rejection             tendencies.
in third grade predicted increasingly
                                            ●   The resulting deviant peer
greater antisocial behaviors from sixth
grade onward, even when boys’ earlier           associations.
aggressiveness was accounted for in
the predictions (Coie et al., 1995). The    The Study Group believes that peer
frequency of violent offending in adoles-   influence is an important mediating fac-
cence was greater for these rejected,       tor in child delinquency. Research sug-
aggressive juveniles, and they were more    gests that peer influence has an impact
likely to persist in violent offending in   on delinquency in two ways: (1) the ini-
early adulthood. In the early school        tial offending of relatively late starters
years, peer rejection accentuates the       and (2) the escalation of serious offend-
relation between early attention and        ing among very early starters.

School Factors                                     risk for general offending and for child             importance in the development of anti-
                                                   delinquency (e.g., Hawkins et al., 1998;             social behaviors (Catalano and Hawkins,
The Study Group found that the failure
                                                   Le Blanc, Coté, and Loeber, 1991). It is             1996). Disorganized neighborhoods with
to bond to school during childhood can
                                                   likely that children who perform poorly              few controls may have weak social con-
lead to delinquency. In addition, as stat-
                                                   on academic tasks will fail to develop               trol networks that allow criminal activity
ed above, early neurological deficien-
                                                   strong bonds to school and will have                 to go unmonitored and even unnoticed
cies, when combined with the failure
                                                   lower expectations of success. As a re-              (e.g., Elliott et al., 1996; Sampson and
of family, school, and community to
                                                   sult, academic achievement and school                Lauritsen, 1994). In terms of violent
provide adequate socialization, lead
                                                   bonding are, in many ways, interdepend-              crimes, one study concluded that social
to early-onset offending that persists
                                                   ent. For example, one study found that               disorganization and concentrated poverty
throughout life. A specific school risk
                                                   boys who engage in delinquency are                   within the community lead to residents’
factor for delinquency is poor academic
                                                   less committed to school and are also                decreased willingness to intervene
performance. A meta-analysis of more
                                                   more likely to have “shorter plans” for              when children are engaging in antisocial/
than 100 studies examined the relation-
                                                   their schooling. These boys described                unlawful acts, further contributing to
ship between poor academic perform-
                                                   themselves as bad students (Le Blanc                 a greater likelihood of violence within
ance and delinquency and found that
                                                   et al., 1991).                                       neighborhoods (Sampson, Raudenbush,
poor academic performance is related
                                                                                                        and Earls, 1997).
to the prevalence, onset, frequency, and
seriousness of delinquency (Maguin and             Community Factors                                    Certain residential areas may support
Loeber, 1996). In young children ages 8                                                                 greater opportunities for antisocial
                                                   Numerous risk factors for young chil-
to 11, academic performance has been                                                                    learning. For example, disadvantaged
                                                   dren’s offending lie within the commu-
related to serious later delinquency                                                                    inner-city neighborhoods are often char-
                                                   nity domain. For example, findings from
(Loeber et al., 1998). Even when indi-                                                                  acterized by a predominance of delin-
                                                   studies of childhood exposure to family
vidual intelligence and attention prob-                                                                 quent peer groups and gangs that draw
                                                   poverty have been very consistent.
lems are taken into account, academic                                                                   young people into crime (Sutherland
                                                   Children raised in poor, disadvantaged
performance remains a predictor of                                                                      and Cressey, 1970). Juveniles living
                                                   families are at greater risk for offend-
delinquency.                                                                                            within high-crime neighborhoods are
                                                   ing than children raised in relatively
                                                   affluent families (e.g., Farrington, 1989,           often exposed to norms favorable to
Children with weak bonds (low commit-
                                                   1991, 1998). Disadvantages at the neigh-             crime and are at high risk for offending
ment) to school, low educational aspira-
                                                   borhood level are also of primary                    (Developmental Research and Programs,
tions, and poor motivation are also at

  Development of Early Offending Behavior and Peer Influences

                                                                                                   Aggressiveness and
                                                                    Peer Rejection

              Family                  Aggressive and                                                                             Delinquent
                                    Disruptive Behaviors                                                                          Activity

                                                                                             Association With
                                                                                              Deviant Peers

        Early Risk Factors                       School Entry                      Early School Years                      Preadolescence

  Source: J.D. Coie and S. Miller-Johnson. 2001. Peer factors and interventions. In Serious and Violent Juvenile Offenders: Risk Factors and
  Successful Interventions, edited by R. Loeber and D.P. Farrington. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc., pp. 191–209.

                                                                                             and, eventually, criminal behavior in
  Who’s in Control at School?                                                                adulthood.
  Schools play an important role in the socialization of children and the development
  of antisocial behavior. When schools are poorly organized and operated, children           Individual
  are less likely to value their education and do well on academic tasks and more
                                                                                             If the impulse control necessary to
  likely to experience peer influences that promote delinquency and opportunities for
                                                                                             avoid trouble is learned largely during
  antisocial behavior (Gottfredson, 2001). For example, schools with fewer teacher
                                                                                             the preschool years, the best time to
  resources and large enrollments of students have higher levels of teacher victimiza-
                                                                                             help those who have difficulty in acquir-
  tion by pupils. Teacher victimization is also higher in schools with lower cooperation
                                                                                             ing this control would be during the
  between teachers and administrators and with poor rule enforcement. Furthermore,
                                                                                             “sensitive period” of early childhood. It
  poor rule enforcement within schools has been associated with higher levels of
                                                                                             is difficult to imagine that later interven-
  student victimization. Disciplinary problems are also more common in schools with
                                                                                             tions would have nearly as much effect.
  less satisfied teachers (Ostroff, 1992). Although much more research is needed on
                                                                                             Instead of looking for the onset of ag-
  the relationship between school organization and processes and children’s delin-
                                                                                             gression and antisocial behaviors after
  quency, available evidence suggests that, in addition to those already noted, several
                                                                                             children enter school, it is more impor-
  other specific school characteristics may be linked to antisocial behaviors of students,
                                                                                             tant to focus on the preschool years,
  including poor student-teacher relations, norms and values supporting antisocial
                                                                                             when clearly much of the development
  behaviors, and poorly defined rules and expectations for appropriate conduct.
                                                                                             of impulse control is taking place (e.g.,
                                                                                             Broidy, Nagin, and Tremblay, 1999;
                                                                                             Tremblay et al., 1998).
1996). In addition, having ready access        intervention focuses on the risk factors
to weapons generally increases the risk        just discussed. In general, the Study
for violence (Brewer et al., 1995).            Group found that the number of ade-           Family
                                               quately designed experimental interven-       Several types of programs provide
                                               tions is insufficient to guide policymakers   family-based interventions. For exam-
Interventions                                  in their efforts to prevent child delin-      ple, Olds and colleagues (1998) report-
Although the Study Group’s findings            quency. The lack of interventions tar-        ed on nurses’ home visits to unmarried
concerning interventions for child delin-      geting antisocial behaviors in young          women living in households with low
quency will be discussed more fully in         children is particularly conspicuous.         socioeconomic status during pregnancy
Treatment, Services, and Intervention          The Study Group believes focusing on          to the end of the second year after birth.
Programs for Child Delinquents (Burns          children’s early years is essential to        These visits subsequently had a posi-
et al., 2003), the following brief             better understand the socialization fail-     tive effect on the 15-year-old children’s
overview of the issues associated with         ures that lead to juvenile delinquency        reports of arrests, convictions, violations

                                                                                                Violence and the Media
                                                                                                Some studies have shown that anti-
                                                                                                social behaviors, such as violence,
                                                                                                can be learned by viewing violence
                                                                                                in the media. For example, children
                                                                                                exposed to high levels of television
                                                                                                violence at age 8 were found to be
                                                                                                more likely to behave aggressively at
                                                                                                that age and subsequently, up to age
                                                                                                30 (Eron and Huesmann, 1987). In
                                                                                                addition, children of parents who
                                                                                                frequently watched violence on tele-
                                                                                                vision and showed aggression were
                                                                                                found to be more likely than other
                                                                                                children to exhibit aggression and to
                                                                                                prefer violent programs (Huesmann
                                                                                                and Miller, 1994).

                                             should focus on reducing contact with         et al., 1995; National Crime Prevention
  Bad Company                                deviant peers for juveniles predisposed       Council, 1994). Most take a comprehen-
  Sometimes even the best intentions
                                             to antisocial behaviors and on promot-        sive approach to addressing behavior
  go astray. The fact that antisocial
                                             ing the development of prosocial skills       across several risk domains, but their
  juveniles are often grouped together
                                             (e.g., skills for resolving peer conflicts)   effect on child delinquency remains
  in intervention programs may, in fact,
                                             (Hawkins and Weis, 1985). Studies have        to be demonstrated. Multicomponent
  promote friendships and alliances
                                             shown that peer relations training (in        instruction programs have been devel-
  among these juveniles and intensify
                                             combination with parent training) reduc-      oped in several big cities, and these
  delinquent behavior rather than re-
                                             es children’s involvement with deviant        programs will be discussed in Treatment,
  duce it (e.g., McCord, 1997; Dishion,
                                             peers during preadolescence, thus help-       Services, and Intervention Programs for
  McCord, and Poulin, 1999). For exam-
                                             ing to protect them from subsequent           Child Delinquents (Burns et al., 2003).
  ple, group discussions among antiso-
                                             involvement in delinquent activities.
  cial peers may inadvertently reinforce
  antisocial attitudes and promote anti-
  social friendships that may continue                                                     The Study Group stresses that the focus
                                             Several types of school programs have         on risk factors that appear at a young
  outside group sessions.
                                             shown promise as interventions for            age is the key to preventing child delin-
                                             reducing aggressive behavior in the           quency and its escalation into chronic
                                             classroom. For example, evaluations of        criminality. By intervening early, young
of probation, consumption of alcohol,
                                             the Good Behavior Game showed that            children will be less likely to succumb
sexual activity, and running away from
                                             proactive behavior management can             to the accumulating risks that arise
home. Earlier reports (Olds et al., 1997;
                                             positively affect the long-term behav-        later in childhood and adolescence
Olds et al., 1986) had shown that this
                                             ior of the most aggressive elementary         and less likely to incur the negative
intervention also reduced the incidence
                                             school children (Murphy, Hutchinson,          social and personal consequences of
of childhood injuries and child abuse
                                             and Bailey, 1983; Kellam and Rebok,           several years of disruptive and delin-
and neglect.
                                             1992; Kellam et al., 1994). The Seattle       quent behaviors.
Many family-based interventions that         Social Development Project has also
focus on issues such as spousal vio-         demonstrated effectiveness in reducing        Child delinquency usually stems from a
lence and divorce conflict disregard         disruptive behavior in children (Hawkins      combination of factors that varies from
children completely or deal with them        et al., 1992; Hawkins, Von Cleve, and         child to child. No single risk factor is
only in the abstract. Conversely, inter-     Catalano, 1991; Hawkins et al., 1999;         sufficient to explain it. To develop effec-
ventions for reducing aggression in          O’Donnell et al., 1995). Numerous             tive methods for preventing child delin-
young children do not always target          schools have also developed social            quency and its escalation into serious
family issues, such as domestic violence     competence curriculums to promote             and violent juvenile offending, interven-
or parental psychopathology, that may        norms against aggressive, violent, and        tion methods must account for the
contribute to the child’s behavior prob-     other antisocial behaviors (e.g., Green-      wide range of individual, family, peer,
lems. Focused, family-based approaches,      berg, 1997). Other efforts include con-       school, and community risk factors.
such as Parent Management Training           flict resolution and violence prevention      Some effective intervention programs
(Wasserman and Miller, 1998), have           curriculums, bullying prevention pro-         that focus on reducing persistent dis-
helped reduce the risk of poor family        grams, multicomponent classroom pro-          ruptive behavior in young children
management practices and physically          grams to improve academic achievement         have reduced later serious, violent, and
abusive behavior, which can contribute       and reduce antisocial behaviors, after-       chronic offending. Some interventions
to antisocial behaviors in children.         school recreation programs, and men-          focus on parent behaviors that increase
Nevertheless, a lack of sensitivity to co-   toring programs.                              the risk of persistent disruptive behav-
occurring risk factors has generally led                                                   ior in children. Peer relations training
to interventions that are too narrowly                                                     and school/classroom programs have
focused. As a result, they fail to address                                                 also shown some promise. Still, many
adequately the multiple sources of risk      Because most studies have not specifi-        gaps exist in our knowledge about the
for children in family life.                 cally focused on child delinquency, sur-      development of child delinquency, the
                                             prisingly little is known about community     risk and protective factors that con-
                                             risk factors for child delinquency. Several   tribute to it, and effective prevention
Peers                                        community approaches for preventing           and intervention methods. Addressing
Interventions to reduce antisocial be-       and reducing juvenile crime have been         these gaps offers an exceptional oppor-
haviors associated with peer influence       developed in recent years (e.g., Brewer       tunity to reduce overall crime levels

and to decrease future expenditures           Cicchetti, D., and Rogosch, F.A. 1996.       Elliott, D.S., Wilson, W.J., Huizinga, D.,
of tax dollars.                               Equifinality and multifinality in develop-   Sampson, R.J., Elliott, A., and Rankin, B.
                                              mental psychopathology. Development          1996. The effects of neighborhood dis-
                                              and Psychopathology 8:597–600.               advantage on adolescent development.
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vol. 3, edited by A.J. Reiss and J.A. Roth.                                                  Justice and Delinquency Prevention, U.S. De-
Washington, DC: National Academy               Wasserman, G.A., and Miller, L.S. 1998.       partment of Justice.
Press, pp. 1–115.                              The prevention of serious and violent
                                                                                             Points of view or opinions expressed in this
                                               juvenile offending. In Serious and Violent    document are those of the authors and do not
Sampson, R.J., Raudenbush, S.W., and           Juvenile Offenders: Risk Factors and          necessarily represent the official position or
Earls, F. 1997. Neighborhoods and vio-         Successful Interventions, edited by R.        policies of OJJDP or the U.S. Department of
lent crime: A multilevel study of collec-      Loeber and D.P. Farrington. Thousand          Justice.
tive efficacy. Science 277:919–924.            Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc., pp.
                                               197–247.                                       The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency
Shaw, C.T., and McKay, H.D. 1931.                                                             Prevention is a component of the Office of
Report on the Causes of Crime, vol. 2.                                                        Justice Programs, which also includes the
                                               Wasserman, G.A., Miller, L., Pinner, E.,
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                                               and Jaramillo, B.S. 1996. Parenting pre-       Justice Statistics, the National Institute of
Printing Office.                               dictors of early conduct problems in           Justice, and the Office for Victims of Crime.
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quency: Differences between early and
late starters in the impact of parenting
and deviant peers. Criminology

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