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Factors Associated With Juvenile Delinquency Essay


Do you think that individual factors or family factors are more important when creating interventions for delinquent youths? Give reasons for choosing one or the other. What type of intervention do you think is most effective?

Conviction among behavioral scientists is that, factors that contribute to juvenile offences are multidimensional, constituting biological, social, and psychological factors. Each of these dimensions further constitutes numerous factors, which have the potential of making youths get involved in delinquent behaviors (Corrado, 2002). In realization that family factors have a great influence in juvenile delinquency, it becomes clear that juvenile offence constitutes a complex system. This complex system is manifested through social and economic disadvantage of the family, parental conflict and deviance, attachment and involvement of family members, social constraints such as rules, discipline, and supervision (Corrado, 2002).

Accordingly, youth delinquency behaviors on large scale are being precipitated by family and community factors. For instance, experts in the fields of child development, psychology, and criminology are convinced that family system variables play critical role in the development of delinquent and deviant behaviors (McGaha and Leoni, 1995 cited in Quinn, 2004). Moreover, “family-related variables consistently have been shown to be factors in the absence or presence of criminality” (Quinn, 2004); for example, according to field research carried out by McGaha and Leoni (1995) observation shows that individuals who are tightly bonded to social groups such as family, school, and church are less likely to commit delinquent acts (Quinn, 2004).

Family factors contributing to delinquency among youths include: poor parental monitoring, lack of parental communication including little warmth and great hostility, poor or lack of parental attachment, negative peer influence, lack of parental involvement in and appreciation for education, parental substance abuse, marital discord and disruption, absence of one or both parents in homes, and prevalence of poverty in the family (Quinn, 2004). In a related study carried on African-American youth males in attempt to find out factors that drive their tendency to be involved in delinquent behaviors, it was found out that social class was not a factor that prompted delinquency behaviors among these youths. Factors cited by the youths to contribute to their behaviors include parental rejection, family poverty, family education experiences, poor supervision and unresolved family conflict, and attachment deficit (Quinn, 2004).

Numerous empirical tests with regard to social control models on delinquency prevention and intervention have shown that interventions that promote family management skills have capacity of being the most cost-effective strategy for reducing problem behavior in youth (Dishion and Kavanagh, 2003 cited in Quinn, 2004). For example, a parent-focused group based on family management produced reduced coercive interactions between the parent and youth where at the same time teachers note that this model has been effective in ensuring reduction in antisocial behavior among the youths (Quinn, 2004). Today, focus has shifted to family intervention programs that address youth problems and their utilization is on the increase. Multiple family group models attempt to address psychopathology and delinquency among the youths.

The success of these models has been enormous for example: family-based social services to stabilize families who are abusive or impoverished; psycho-education groups for schizophrenic patients and their families; family group intervention in positive parenting programs that integrate primary care services; and structured family intervention groups to address early-onset school-related problems and risks of delinquency (Quinn, 2004). All these interventions provide support for the utilization of family-community perspective in delinquency intervention and according to two authors Snyder and Huntley (1990) early intervention constitute the most effective form of treatment to delinquents’ behaviors. Further, the authors propose that the family should be the main focus of prevention and clinical interventions and that establishment of social policy and programs should be directed to the family (Quinn, 2004).

Family group model has evolved as the best form of intervention for youth delinquency behaviors due to its nature of resembling community-based model. In general community-based models outperforms institutional placements where suggestions made is that programs and methods that put more emphasis on prosocial skill development are highly placed to be 10 per cent to 20 per cent more effective in minimizing cases of delinquency than individual counseling or general education (Quinn, 2004). In summary, family intervention model specifically the family solutions program (FSL) is regarded to be effective in that it is ‘owned’ by the family and through this, the younger siblings in the family have an opportunity to learn early and avoid cases of delinquency behaviors as compared to their older siblings.

Discuss risk and protective factors for juvenile delinquency. Choose 3 treatment strategies discussed this term and identify how these interventions serve to reduce risk factors and increase protective factors for youth.

Discovery made is that risks factors put majority of youth in great danger of becoming delinquent while protective factors function to prevent or insulate youths from becoming delinquent (McShane and Williams, 2003). It should be noted that risk factors do not necessary results or cause delinquency while at the same time protective factors do not prevent delinquency (McShane and Williams, 2003). Further, numerous researches indicate that risk or protective factor is related to delinquency. Risk and protective factors are interrelated affecting one another as youth develops. Six kinds of risks have been identified to be the most prevalent among the youths and adolescents. The six include biology and genetics, family, personality, social environment, ecological environment and educational environment (McShane and Williams, 2003). In most cases the six categories operate in collaboration and normally influence each other while at the same time the interaction of risk and protective factors is generally different for each particular juvenile (McShane and Williams, 2003).

According to the developed social development prevention model, Communities That Care (CTC) developed by J. David Hawkins and Richard F. Catalano there are five categories of risk factors that have been found to be predictive of juvenile delinquency. Families influences such as parental conflict, child abuse, poor family management practices, and the problem behavior affecting the family for example “teen pregnancy, criminality, school drop outs, and substance abuse” are part of family risk factors associated with juvenile delinquency (DIANE Publishing Company, 2004). Third are the school experiences such as “early academic failure, lack of commitment to school, and low school bonding” (DIANE Publishing Company, 2004).

Fourth, there is a peer group influence such as friends who exhibit habits of engaging in problem behavior that may include minor criminality, drugs, gangs and even violence (DIANE Publishing Company, 2004). Lastly, is the community and neighborhood factors such as economic deprivation, high rates of substance abuse and crime coupled with disorganization in the neighborhood (DIANE Publishing Company, 2004). Further, according to the CTC model protective factors have to be established and incorporated in order to counter risk factors. Protective factors in nature are qualities and conditions that moderate juvenile’s exposure to risk. Protective factors further are categorized into three basic categories: individual characteristics such as resilient temperament and a positive social orientation; bonding with prosocial family members, teachers, adults and friends; and also health beliefs and clear standards for behavior (DIANE Publishing Company, 2004).

Treatment strategies that usually function to reduce risk factors while at the same time enhances protective factors include family-based therapies that in large scale improve treatment outcome for youth delinquents. Family is seen to be the best avenue to encourage positive family functioning and relationships. Family-based therapies can further be enhanced to ensure they address key areas of treatment for delinquent youths such as development of sense of self and self-efficacy, positive parental and family relationship, effective transactional patterns, and effective family interaction relationships that exhibit functional extrafamilial systems (Lowinson, Ruiz and Millman, 2005).

Another treatment strategy includes PATHS (promoting alternative thinking strategies). According to PATHS strategies, an educational curriculum is generally designed to promote emotional and social competence skills (Ford, 2009). PATHS curriculum has become popular in elementary schools where it is taught three times every week and the main areas that are covered by teachers include teaching the students emotional literacy, self-control, social competence, positive peer relations and interpersonal problem-solving skills (Ford, 2009). In general PATHS lessons include, “instructions in identifying and labeling feelings, assessing the intensity of feelings, managing feelings, understanding the difference between feelings and behaviors, delaying gratification, controlling impulses, reducing stress, self-talk, reading and interpreting social cues and understanding the perspectives of others” (Ford, 2009, p.264).

The last intervention strategy is that of Multidimensional treatment foster care (MTFC). This strategy is designed to be cost effective alternative to residential treatment where it put more emphasis on treatment of delinquent youths having problems with chronic antisocial behavior, emotional disturbance and delinquency (Ford, 2009). According to this treatment strategy, community families are recruited, trained and closely supervised to provide MTFC-placed youths with treatment and intensive supervision at home, in school and in the community (Ford, 2009). The aim largely centers on impacting positive reinforcement necessary for appropriate behavior.


Corrado, R. R. and North Atlantic Treaty Organization. (2002). Multi-problem violent youth: a foundation for comparative research on needs, interventions, and outcomes. NY: IOS Press.

DIANE Publishing Company. (20004). Juvenile Justice: Status of Delinquency Prevention Program and Description of Local Projects. NY: DIANE Publishing.

Ford, J. D. (2009). Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: Scientific and Professional Dimensions. NY: Academic Press.

McShane, M. D. and Williams, F. P. (2003). Encyclopedia of juvenile justice. NY: SAGE.

Lowinson, J. H., Ruiz, P. and Millman, R. B. (2005). Substance abuse: a comprehensive textbook. PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Quinn, W. H. (2004). Family solutions for youth at risk: applications to juvenile delinquency, truancy, and behavior problems. NY: Psychology Press.

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