Child Delinquents: Development, Intervention, and Service Needs
Publication Year: 2001
Subject: Juvenile/Youth Crime & Delinquency
Between 1980 and 1996 the number of arrests has increased considerably for offenders ages 12 and under. This increase is a cost to society in two ways: the cost of the crime and the cost of multiple agencies involved with these children. Several questions have developed due to this increase: How does the juvenile justice system deal with child delinquents? Is child delinquency a predictor of serious, violent, and chronic offending? How early can we predict delinquency, and what are early warning signs? In an effort to develop answers for these questions and many more, editors Rolf Loeber and David Farrington organized a study group on Very Young offenders comprising 39 experts on juvenile delinquency and child problem behavior. Over a two-year period of intense ...
- Front Matter
- Back Matter
- Subject Index
Part I: Epidemiology and Development of Child Delinquency
- Chapter 2: Epidemiology of Official Offending
- Chapter 3: Epidemiology of Self-Reported Delinquency
- Chapter 4: Later Delinquency Careers
- Chapter 5: Epidemiology of Problem Behavior up to Age 12 Years
- Chapter 6: Uncovering Preschool Precursors to Problem Behavior
Part II: Risk Factors and Interventions for Child Delinquency
- Chapter 7: Individual Risk and Protective Factors
- Chapter 8: Family Risk Factors and Interventions
- Chapter 9: Peer Factors and Interventions
- Chapter 10: School and Community Risk Factors and Interventions
- Chapter 11: Ethnicity and Gender Issues
Part III: Mental Health, Child Welfare, and Juvenile Justice Interventions for Child Delinquents
- Chapter 12: Mental Health, Education, Child Welfare, and Juvenile Justice Service Use
- Chapter 13: Juvenile Justice Programs and Strategies
- Chapter 14: Legal Issues
- Chapter 15: Economic Costs and Benefits of Early Developmental Prevention
Part IV: Conclusion
Copyright © 2001 by Sage Publications, Inc.
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Child delinquents: Development, intervention, and service needs / edited by Rolf Loeber and David P. Farrington.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 0-7619-2400-0 (cloth: alk. paper)
1. Juvenile delinquency. 2. Criminal behavior, Prediction of. 3. Juvenile delinquents—Services for. 4. Juvenile delinquency—Prevention. I. Loeber, Rolf. II. Farrington, David P. III. Title.
HV9069 .C395 2000
This book is printed on acid-free paper.
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Do we as a nation love our children?
This thought-provoking question was posed by one of my mentors, Judge William Gladstone, the administrative juvenile court judge in Miami, Florida, in a keynote address I was privileged to attend while a young prosecutor there.
Gladstone acknowledged that, in most situations, we do love our children—as I love my children, Melissa and Zach, and as the reader loves his or her children. But he was challenging the audience on a much broader application of that love. He was questioning the gap between our nation's ideals (i.e., that all children should be cherished) and our practice (i.e., that too many children go wanting).
He cited the deficit in institutional and systemic support for our most at-risk children and families as proof that, indeed, love is lacking but also as proof of a societal indifference to their plight.
My immediate reaction was to question Gladstone's position, but the truth is that the case he made was unquestionable. Child poverty, lack of adequate health and mental health care, failure to respond effectively to child abuse and neglect, overcrowded and underfunded schools, communities that fail to support families with the services they need, and a lack of opportunities for our most at-risk children all are a reflection of this societal apathy.
Further solidifying this notion is how we as a nation have responded to the increase in juvenile crime over the past 15 years—vilifying youths well after the surges in youth crime rates have ended. Indeed, a fear of juvenile crime pervades our society and has resulted in states modifying their laws to be more punitive toward juvenile offenders without a corresponding focus on prevention and rehabilitation. The irony is that not only are violent juvenile crime rates declining, but at the same [Page x]time our knowledge about measures that work to further decrease this offending never has been better. We now know what works to prevent delinquency and how to intervene effectively when it occurs. And we have the right prescription for the diagnosis: The approach must be comprehensive and balanced, combining accountability with treatment and a heavy dose of prevention.
Offending by particularly young juvenile offenders has similarly shocked the public conscience and initiated the same attention as that given to the broader juvenile offender population. This more specific area of concern, and its related solutions, also has seen the same growth in knowledge. We now know the developmental pathways that our children follow into delinquent behavior. We know what the first signs of “trouble” look like, and we understand many of the root causes of delinquency such as child maltreatment, family dysfunction, school failure, negative peer influences, and unstable and violent neighborhoods.
The question that we now face is whether we as a society will act on this knowledge in a meaningful manner or simply, in too many instances, continue to implement well-intentioned but shortsighted and flawed responses. Too often, our current approaches to curtailing youth crime are not sustained for the long term and fail to connect research to practice and address the underlying causes of juvenile crime, particularly those offenses committed by younger children.
Other disciplines have acted prudently when they have found themselves with this level of knowledge about best practice, with law enforcement being a prime example. Some of the most successful examples of community policing across the United States during the past few years, in New York City and elsewhere, have been premised on the “broken windows” prevention strategy. At the very first sign of deterioration in a community, whether it is broken windows or other vandalism, sprawls of graffiti, abandoned cars, boarded-up homes, or other instances of blight, police and other community leaders are taking aggressive action to eliminate the problem and prevent further deterioration.
The broken windows strategy works. This rapid response sets a community standard. The announcement is clear and strong: We do not allow that here. This is the same standard that we want to set for how we deal with juvenile offending and the welfare of our children across this country.
Kids, like communities, bear visible warning signals. They show the earmarks of abuse or neglect. They skip school, they fail in school, they get involved in fights, or they run away. Research tells us that there typically is a 7-year trajectory, between ages 7 and 14 years, from the time when trouble first becomes evident to someone in a child's life until the signal grows loud enough to get picked up by the authorities as a result of serious offending. But it does not have to be this way. An effectual family support strategy coupled with a dynamic violence prevention strategy—one that includes a mechanism to monitor a community's quality of life—does not wait until the child or family's life is in shambles. It takes a stitch in time. It answers the first cry for help. It helps put the broken pieces back together. This is the approach that we need to take to deal with juvenile crime.
With these thoughts in mind, the importance of this volume cannot be overstated. For far too many years, practitioners and policy makers have been fervently arguing for intensified focus and investment on children's issues—both prevention and intervention. The information presented by this expert and diverse group of researchers and practitioners provides a wonderful analysis of how we can do better in working with our youngest offenders. It gives us the tools, in the areas of advocacy and practice, to make a difference on behalf of these children. In essence, it provides a road map to creating safer communities and healthier children and families.
There always will be a need to delve deeper and engage in additional research to learn even more about the causes of delinquency and the interventions that produce real results. But the work contained within these [Page xi]pages indicates that we are ready to move our current research and knowledge into practice. I commend the chapter authors of this most telling volume, and I extend special thanks to editors Rolf Loeber and David Farrington, whose tireless efforts to bring together this extensive body of knowledge will serve to advance our practice and make a difference in the lives of young people and their families. I congratulate the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention's research staff for their commitment to the ongoing work of building knowledge around juvenile justice and delinquency prevention issues. Our children deserve all of the urgency we can bring to this work and our commitment to sustain our efforts over the long haul. It is time that we as a nation fully demonstrate that we love each and every one of our children.[Page xii]
This volume is both timely and relevant to our times. Recent data documenting high rates of violence among adolescents and young adults (and the expansion of youth gang activity) have focused attention on those age categories, often to the neglect of the ages preceding them. Dramatization of the most serious and sometimes outrageous behavior of older adolescents and young adults, especially in mass media of communication, has distorted the behavior of youths in general (Short, 1998).
It sometimes is forgotten, or ignored, that the research literature on youth gangs strongly suggests that understanding early developmental processes and offending among gang members is of critical importance. Although the primary focus of most gang studies is on how gangs facilitate delinquent behavior, those who join gangs typically have records of delinquent behavior prior to their gang membership. Prior delinquency predicts gang membership just as gang membership predicts delinquency. More important, surveys of preadolescents, clinical observations, and teacher and parent reports all indicate that the very young have higher rates of aggression, conduct disorders, delinquencies, and even serious crimes than appear in official data sources.
Rolf Loeber, David Farrington, and their collaborators in this volume take a hard look at what is known about very young child delinquents—their epidemiology and development, associated risk and protective factors, and the efficacy of intervention strategies. It is an ambitious effort. Scholars and practitioners from several disciplines and professions review their own work and relevant work of others. Data from U.S. and Canadian studies permit comparisons between two similar, but in many ways quite different, societies.
This volume also is a pioneering venture that, as is true of all such efforts, raises as many questions as it answers. Not surprisingly, because such study is relatively rare and [Page xiv]research findings often are inconsistent, a strong case is made for more research on the topics addressed. A host of research problems are identified; age periods studied sometimes are not comparable, nor are measures of important variables used in research. Problems of reliability and validity are endemic, and the need for better samples of target populations and measures over time is ever present. Still, the findings are impressive, and empirical regularities are found. Much has been learned that will benefit future study and interventions aimed at preventing offending among the very young and changing those who already are involved in offending.
The reader will find many challenges, and much to ponder, in these pages. Although the focus in many chapters is on risk (and sometimes protective) factors, and on prediction and risk assessment, a strong case also is made for better explanatory theory. Some chapters devote considerable effort to explication of competing theories that might account for child delinquency and its effects. Many findings cry out for explanation, and contributors identify both theoretical and empirical strategies for future work.
A major result of generations of studies in criminology is that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior—“a clear indication,” note Tremblay and LeMarquand (Chapter 7 in this volume), “that the development of antisocial behavior was well on its way” when crime data were first collected (p. 163). Thus, the prevention of antisocial behavior requires that the developmental processes that might explain the behavioral consequences of risk and protective factors be understood. As is documented in this volume, predictive studies identify as those likely to offend many who do not offend—the familiar “false positive” (as well as “false negative”) problem. Research strategies for explaining them theoretically are explored in this volume as well. The importance of experimental interventions is highlighted because, as Tremblay and LeMarquand also observe, well-designed interventions are powerful tools to test causal hypotheses by virtue of their ability to control causal variables.
However, identification of causal variables has proved to be an elusive task, one that has engaged the social and behavioral sciences for many years. As chapters discussing interventions for child delinquents clearly demonstrate, multiple risk factors, their relationships with one another, and their complexity defy simple solutions. Clearly, there are no “magic bullets” for preventing or correcting child delinquents.
A second theme of Parts II and III of this volume is that intervention agencies and their programs rarely coordinate effectively with one another, nor do they typically avail themselves of the existing body of knowledge concerning child delinquents—or, for that matter, offenders at any age. These are familiar themes, repeated by crime commissions and other academic assessments, for much of the past century.
Interpretation of the findings and points of view set forth in this volume is likely to be controversial and is certain to be provocative. For example, what are we to make of the finding that, although young boys have higher rates of “direct aggression” than do young girls, girls are reported to have higher rates of “indirect aggression” than their male counterparts (see Offord, Lipman, & Duku [Chapter 5] in this volume, reporting on the first wave of the National Longitudinal Study of Children and Youth in Canada)? Or, what are we to make of the finding that girls appear to have a “more discontinuous pattern of behavior problems” than do boys (see Keenan [Chapter 6] in this volume)? These and many other observations challenge our social and behavioral science imaginations.
The reader might be uncomfortable with the emphasis that is placed on very young individual offenders and the relatively minor role of the macro-level structural and cultural forces that are staples of sociological and anthropological studies. For example, the assessment that “theoretical and practical perspectives suggest that the most important [Page xv]predictors” of child delinquency are individual and family characteristics, rather than community and school factors (see Wasserman & Seracini [Chapter 8], but cf. Herrenkohl, Hawkins, Chung, Hill, & Battin-Pearson [Chapter 10] in this volume) must be placed in the context of this individual level of explanation focus. The reference—here the target for treatment and prevention—is the individual child delinquent. A large body of research and theory demonstrates the importance of the early socialization of children (Furstenberg, 1993) and the production and control of offending at all ages of school (Devine, 1996) and community (Sampson, Morenoff, & Earls, 1999) processes. However, few will quarrel with the need for much more research devoted to child delinquents or, indeed, to the years prior to age 7 years, as contributors to this volume note.
Farrington's 1999 presidential address to the American Society of Criminology (Farrington, 2000) suggested that intervention strategies ought to be guided not only by the “prevalence of risk factors in the community” but also by “criteria such as the strength of the relationship between a risk factor and delinquency, the extent to which the risk factor is a cause, the malleability or ease of change of the risk factor, or the cost of changing the risk factor” (p. 13). He touched on one of criminology's most long-standing controversies: the extent to which the field should focus on “root causes” or on factors related to crime and delinquency that can serve as the basis for social policies designed to control crime and delinquency. Putting the matter so boldly (in contrast to Farrington's more delicate language) sets up a “straw man,” for few would argue either that sole attention should be devoted to the discovery of root causes (or to theories that are so abstract as to be meaningless to social policy) or to the production of empirical findings without attention to their causal significance. The fallacy of the “anti-root cause” position is that it is impossible to know the significance of root causes or how subject to manipulation (for experimental or social policy purposes) they might be unless they are first discovered.
If this brief foreword seems overly concerned with theory, then it is because I share, with social psychologist Kurt Lewin, the belief that nothing is so practical as a good theory. Implicitly, although we might not recognize it in ourselves, we all subscribe as well to the seemingly enigmatic words of Sir Arthur Eddington “not to put overmuch confidence in the observational results that are put forward until they are confirmed by theory” (quoted in Judson, 1979). At the very least, when empirical findings contradict theoretical expectations, or logic, we first search for answers in measurement error, sample design, or some other problem with research procedures. Only then do we seek theoretical modification, especially if theory is well developed and supported by other research. Loeber, Farrington, and their collaborators have given us much to think about in this collection and much grist for the mills of social and behavioral science. They are to be congratulated, but a great deal more needs to be done. We must get on with it.[Page xvi]
Child delinquents invariably attract the attention of the mass media and government officials, especially after each new disastrous offense committed by a very young offender. Ultimately, child delinquents often become adult offenders. So far as we are aware, this is the first published volume that specifically focuses on child delinquents, their early development, the risk factors to which they are exposed, their later lives, and effective preventive and remedial interventions.
This volume presents the fruits of 2 years of work by 39 experts on child delinquency and child psychopathology. This working party, usually known as the Study Group on Very Young Offenders, was chaired by Rolf Loeber and David Farrington. The initial members of the study group were Barbara Burns, John Coie, Darnell Hawkins, J. David Hawkins, James Howell, David Huizinga, Kate Keenan, David Offord, Howard Snyder, Terence Thornberry, and Gail Wasserman. They later were joined by Leena Augimeri, Brendon Welsh, and Janet Wiig.
The study group members enlisted many co-authors to help them with their chapters including Meda Chesney-Lind, Ick-Joong Chung, Anne Crawford, Erik Duku, Rachele Espiritu, Leyla Faw, Kenneth Goldberg, Andrea Hazen, Todd Herrenkohl, Karl Hill, Larry Kalb, Kelly Kelleher, Gordon Keeler, Kimberly Kempf-Leonard, Christopher Koegl, Marvin Krohn, John Landsverk, David LeMarquand, Marc Le Blanc, Ellen Lipman, Shari Miller-Johnson, Craig Rivera, and Angela Seracini.
The volume has been created as a truly cooperative venture, with each of the study group members and principal authors having the opportunity to meet and discuss all aspects of his or her work on several occasions. In that way, each group member had repeated opportunities to influence the work of the others, sharpen the key questions, and provide answers. In addition, many specially commissioned analyses were undertaken to address key issues that could not have been resolved on the basis of the existing literature. We are greatly indebted to each of the principal authors and their co-authors for their intense efforts to produce high-quality chapters and for their participation in a dialogue over the 2 years that sharpened each chapter and the volume as a whole. We greatly value the patience of the contributors in revising and improving their chapters in response to comments from ourselves and from other members of the study group.
[Page xviii]We also owe much to our informal group of advisers including Alfred Blumstein, Dante Cicchetti, Nancy Crowell, Bernadine Dohrn, Joan McCord, and Christy Visher. In addition, we are grateful to many colleagues and practitioners who gave us advice including Menke Bol, Theo Dorelijers, Hans Heiner, Eric Joy, Willem Koops, Jim Reiland, and Cathy Spatz Widom. We also are grateful to more than 100 attendees at the National Conference on Juvenile Justice in Minneapolis, Minnesota, who in March 1999 responded to our survey on very young offenders, and to the attendees of the meeting on Delinquents Under 10: Targeting the Young Offender in Minneapolis in September-October 1999. Special thanks are due to Magda Stouthamer-Loeber for her continuing support and encouragement throughout the project. Larry Kalb very effectively assisted with various literature searches and prepared the list of classic longitudinal studies on delinquency, substance use, sexual behavior, and mental health problems with childhood samples at Time 1 (Appendix C in this volume).
The Study Group on Very Young Offenders has been sponsored by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) (Grant 95-JD-FX-0018). Points of view or opinions in this volume are ours and do not necessarily represent the official positions of the OJJDP.
Throughout this project, we received consistent encouragement and superior counsel from the OJJDP's staff, particularly Barbara Allen-Hagen, Shay Bilchik, Betty Chemers, Charlotte Kerr, and John Wilson. Erica Spokart should be thanked for her efficient organization of meetings and for her great assistance in the preparation of the draft of the volume for submission to the OJJDP and to the publisher. Brandon Welsh's and D. J. Peck's editorial skills greatly contributed to the quality of the manuscript. As editors, we are proud to have been able to work together with so many of our colleagues in a tremendously positive spirit aimed at advancing knowledge on child delinquents, who are a serious concern to the long-term welfare of our society.—University of Pittsburgh and Free University (Netherlands),—University of Cambridge (England),
Executive Summary[Page xix]and
Child delinquents, who commit delinquent acts at ages 7 to 12 years, have a two- to threefold increased risk of becoming tomorrow's serious, violent, and chronic offenders. Therefore, child delinquents constitute a disproportionate threat to the safety and property of citizens across the United States. This is the first volume ever published that summarizes empirical information on child delinquents from hundreds of studies, several of which were newly analyzed for this volume.
This volume concentrates on three categories of children:
Why Do We Need to Focus on Child Delinquents?
- Serious child delinquents who have committed one or more of the following acts: homicide, aggravated assault, robbery, rape, or serious arson
- Other child delinquents (excluding serious delinquents and status offenders)
- Children (up to age 12 years) who engage in persistent disruptive behavior (including status offenses)
Over the past decades, we have learned a great deal from focusing on specific high-risk groups of youths. For example, much work during the 1980s and 1990s targeted chronic offenders, usually defined as those with at least four or five arrests or convictions. The main rationale for this was that chronic offenders [Page xx]were responsible for a disproportionately large amount of crime (and especially serious crime). Although valuable, the problem with this approach is that, without screening methods, chronic offenders become recognizable only when they have accrued multiple offenses, which usually is late in their criminal careers when they already have inflicted much harm and property loss on others.
AUTHORS' NOTE: We are particularly grateful to James C. Howell, Kate Keenan, and Magda Stouthamer-Loeber for their comments on an earlier draft of this executive summary.
We now turn our attention to child delinquents, who are particularly at risk for becoming serious, violent, and chronic juvenile offenders. The main advantage of a focus on child delinquents is the identification of, and possible intervention with, youths at a much earlier age, prior to the accumulation of multiple offenses and prior to them becoming chronic offenders. This approach primarily focuses on youths who commit delinquent acts at a young age or who show persistent disruptive behavior at an early age.
The following report is based on 2 years of work by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention's (OJJDP) Study Group on Very Young Offenders, consisting of 39 experts on child offending and child problem behavior. Much of the work of the study group builds on the prior work of the OJJDP's Study Group on Serious and Violent Juvenile Offenders, chaired by the editors of this volume and published as Serious and Violent Juvenile Offenders: Risk Factors and Successful Interventions (Loeber & Farrington, 1998b).Epidemiology of Child Delinquency
Child delinquency (offending at ages 7 to 12 years) and persistent disruptive child behavior (up to age 12) are stepping-stones to later serious, violent, and chronic offending.
How common are child delinquents? The latest available national data show that in a single year (1997), just over a quarter of a million youths were arrested up to age 12 years, showing large numbers of children engaging in crime. Although boys predominate among the child delinquents, nearly 1 out of 4 is a girl. Across boys and girls, child delinquents constitute 1 out of 11 total juvenile arrestees (up to age 18). These figures are likely to be underestimates given that, in many jurisdictions, relatively few child delinquents up to age 12 are arrested or referred to the juvenile courts. Research shows that, perhaps with the exception of the most serious acts, only a minority of all delinquent acts lead to arrests. For that reason, criminologists attach much value to both official records and self-reported measures of delinquency.
- Homicide. Between 1980 and 1997, 27,000 murders were committed by juveniles. In about 2% of these cases (or about 600 murders), at least one of the identified delinquents was age 12 years or under. Thus, murders by child delinquents are relatively rare but still are large in number. Weapons frequently are used by child delinquents; guns were used in more than half of the murders committed by child delinquents. A national survey of youths in 1997 found that 7% of all 12-year-olds reported that they had carried a handgun during the past year.
- Other serious offenses. Child delinquents, as compared to later onset offenders, commit certain types of serious offenses at relatively high rates. Child delinquents account for 1 out of 3 juvenile arrests for arson, 1 out of 5 juvenile arrests for sex offenses and vandalism, 1 out of 8 juvenile arrests for burglary and forcible rape, and 1 out of 12 arrests for violent crime. When serious self-reported delinquency is used as a criterion, 14% to 19% of inner-city children ages 7 to 12 years have committed some street offenses (thefts and assaults), 25% to 40% have committed other serious delinquency, 5% to 7% have committed serious violence, and 8% to 9% have [Page xxi]committed burglaries. Thus, a substantial proportion of children up to age 12 commit serious forms of delinquency.
- Other offenses. Child delinquents tend to commit many offenses other than very serious ones such as minor theft and vandalism.
- Disruptive behavior. Child delinquents and children who are at risk for becoming child delinquents often engage in a variety of problem behaviors, here called disruptive behaviors, such as chronic noncompliance with adults, temper tantrums, bullying, cruelty to people or animals, and setting fires. In addition, child delinquents often engage in what often are known as status offenses such as truancy, running away from home, curfew violations, and liquor law violations. Children with persistent or recurring disruptive behavior (and status offenses) are of greatest concern here because such behavior tends to predict later delinquent acts.
- Race differences. The referral rate for African American child delinquents to the juvenile courts in 1997 was 2.8 times higher than that for Caucasian child delinquents. These differences in referral rates and disruptive behavior need to be examined in the context of children's exposure to risk factors, particularly in the worst neighborhoods, and a greater likelihood of detection in these areas.
- Gender differences. The male referral rate of child delinquents to the juvenile courts in 1997 was three times the female rate. However, over the years, the gender gap has been narrowing. Between 1988 and 1997, court referrals of female child delinquents increased by 69%, compared to male child delinquents' increase of 26%. Gender differences in disruptive child behavior already tend to emerge after age 2 years. Studies confirm the generally held belief that, already at an early age, more boys than girls show disruptive behavior such as aggression. However, the prevalence of indirect aggression (e.g., ostracizing others, spreading malicious rumors) is about the same for both genders or, if anything, is slightly higher for females.
Has the prevalence of child delinquents increased over the past years? Between 1988 and 1997, the number of arrested child delinquents increased by only 6%, although the number of those dealt with by the juvenile courts increased by 33%, indicating that law enforcement agencies were increasingly likely to refer child delinquents to the juvenile courts. A comparison of self-reported delinquency over the past 20 years does not indicate any increase in delinquency by young offenders in the United States. Moreover, between 1980 and 1997, the number of murders by offenders up to age 12 years remained about the same, averaging about 30 per year. However, more than two thirds (69%) of the practitioners we surveyed said that it now is more common than in the recent past for children to become delinquent at a very young age.
Have child delinquents become more violent? The recorded offense pattern of child delinquents has changed between 1988 and 1997. During that period, several changes occurred.
- Violent crimes increased by 45%.
- Simple assaults increased by 79%.
- Weapons law violations increased by 76%.
These increases in arrests parallel the increases in these behaviors seen for older juvenile offenders. However, the increases in violence and drug abuse violations by child delinquents has received scant attention so far. It is debatable whether these changes reflect true secular changes in society or changes in prosecution practices in the juvenile justice system. Arrests of child delinquents for property crimes decreased by 17% [Page xxii]between 1988 and 1997 (see Snyder [Chapter 2] in this volume).
How does the juvenile justice system deal with child delinquents?
- More child delinquents have been brought before the courts because of serious forms of delinquency.
- The juvenile courts, in more cases of child delinquency, imposed a formal (involuntary and/or severe) sanction rather than an informal sanction.
- The number of child delinquency cases that resulted in formal court-ordered probation increased by 73%.
- Placements of child delinquents to residential facilities increased by 49%.
In 1997, the juvenile courts placed nearly 23,000 child delinquents on formal court-ordered probation and placed another 7,000 child delinquents in residential facilities for committing delinquent acts. In addition, about 18,000 child delinquents were held in secure detention facilities in 1997, an increase of 47% over the number in 1988.
Do child delinquents contribute to crime disproportionately? In 1997, child delinquents made up just 16% of individuals referred to the juvenile courts, but they accounted for nearly double the proportions of all juveniles referred for serious forms of delinquency:
- 29% of all violent referrals
- 30% of all serious referrals
Are there geographic concentrations of child delinquents? It is likely that child delinquents are not randomly distributed across the nation, but the evidence for their concentration in certain states and cities is incomplete. Child delinquents in secure juvenile facilities are unequally distributed across the nation, with the highest concentrations found in Florida, Georgia, Wyoming, South Dakota, and Alaska.
It is impossible to say whether the geographic concentration of child delinquents in those states reflects the prevalence of child delinquents, availability of residential and non-residential services, or routine judicial practices unique to those states. However, we know that homicides (and probably other serious offenses) committed by juveniles of any age are concentrated in large cities such as Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago, Detroit, and New York (Snyder & Sickmund, 1999). Because a high proportion of the serious offenders start their delinquency careers at an early age, it follows that child delinquents probably also are concentrated in the same locations. This would agree with findings showing that the prevalence of aggression is particularly elevated in children from the lowest income groups and concentrated in inner-city children growing up in poverty. We know that many child delinquents had been highly aggressive when young. In more and more communities, the increase in the numbers of child delinquents (and disruptive youths) is reaching the level of critical mass—the point at which system professionals and policy makers realize that the problem has become too large to be ignored and that special programs are needed.
What statistical information is needed? Youths under age 12 years usually are not counted in national, regional, or city-wide surveys of offenders or victims. As a result, we do not know the following:
- The locations in which child delinquents are most prevalent
- How many child delinquents are noted by the agencies in the community but are not recorded
- What actions take place routinely for child delinquents by agencies in the community
This information is crucial for channeling resources to early intervention.[Page xxiii]Monetary Costs
What are the monetary costs of child delinquents to society? The monetary costs of a life of crime are very high, not to mention its human costs. Cohen (1998) calculated that the costs of a single high-risk youth engaging in 4 years of offending as a juvenile and 10 years of offending as an adult range from $1.7 million to $2.3 million (in 1997 dollars). Given that many of these high-rate offenders start their delinquent and disruptive careers early in life, we can safely assume that the costs to society of child delinquents are considerable.Development
Is child delinquency a predictor of serious, violent, and chronic offending? Research findings uniformly agree that the risk of later violence, serious offenses, and chronic offending is two to three times higher for child delinquents than for later onset offenders. Phrased differently, two out of three serious offenders start their offending before adolescence. Child delinquents also tend to have longer delinquency careers than do those whose onset of offending comes later.
The risk of child delinquents to become tomorrow's serious, violent, and chronic offenders applies to males and females as well as to African American and Caucasian juveniles. Also, child delinquents, as compared to juvenile offenders who start their delinquency careers at a later age, are more likely to become gang members and to engage in substance use.
What is the developmental context of child delinquency? Some children engage in minor delinquent acts for excitement, adventure, or other emotions common among children. For these children, offending may be considered as part of typical child development in which youngsters learn prosocial behavior by trial and error. This might be the case for a proportion of the early-onset offenders. However, several important points should be kept in mind.
- Many of the children who come to the attention of the police and the courts because of minor delinquent acts also—unknown to the juvenile justice system—engage in more serious acts as well.
- For some child offenders, early status offenses and delinquency are stepping-stones in pathways to serious, violent, and chronic offending.
- About one quarter to one half of those children who engage in nondelinquent disruptive behavior are at risk for escalating to minor delinquent acts.
- About one third to two thirds of child delinquents are at risk for escalating to serious delinquency.
- Screening procedures are needed to distinguish prospectively (rather than after the fact) between those youths whose early offending is temporary and those who either will persist in offending over time or will escalate to serious offending.
- These facts make it all the more important to take notice of child delinquency.
In summary, research findings support the notion that the development of offending is part of a broader pattern of deviant development that usually starts with disruptive nondelinquent behavior (Figure E.1). Although some of the predictions may refer to similar behaviors (e.g., aggression predicting violence), some types of disruptive behaviors also may predict different types of delinquent acts. For example, research shows that boys who are aggressive by ages 8 and 9 years, as compared to nonaggressive boys, have five times as high a risk of engaging in property offenses by ages 12 and 13.Figure E.1. Hypothesized Temporal Relationships Among Different Categories of Youths of Greatest Concern
Beyond these general principles, there is evidence that boys' development from minor [Page xxiv]disruptive problem behavior to serious and violent juvenile offending takes place according to orderly pathways consisting of successive problem behaviors.
- Replicated findings indicate three developmental pathways: the authority conflict pathway prior to age 12 years leading to authority avoidant behaviors (e.g., truancy, running away from home), the overt pathway leading to violence, and the covert pathway prior to age 15 years leading to property crime (e.g., burglary, major theft, fraud).
- There are two major qualitative developmental changes toward serious offending that often take place during childhood and adolescence: from disruptive behavior in the home to delinquency outside the home and from infliction of harm on close relatives and peers to infliction of harm on strangers.
How early can we predict, and what are early warning signs? Generally, the foundations for both prosocial and disruptive behaviors are laid during the first 5 years of life. Deviations from normal developmental processes can be identified during this period. During subsequent years, child behavior can undergo major changes, with some youths developing more serious disruptive and delinquent behavior and others who had an early onset of disruptive behavior eventually ceasing.
Some level of disruptive behavior is common during the preschool years, especially during the “terrible two's” and “terrible three's” when many children of both genders show high levels of aggression and noncompliance. However, the following are important warning signs of later problems:
- Disruptive behavior that is either more frequent or more severe than that of children of the same age
- Disruptive behavior, such as temper tantrums and aggression, that persists beyond the first 2 to 3 years of life
- History of aggressive, inattentive, or sensation-seeking behavior during the preschool years (although the majority of preschoolers with behavior problems do not go on to become child delinquents)
In summary, in the case of many offenders, disruptive behavior becomes apparent during the preschool years and certainly during the elementary school-age years. The question of “How early can we tell who will become delinquent?” is critical from both a scientific and a policy standpoint. Specific early warning signs for the development of delinquency at a young age are as follows:
- Physical fighting
- Cruelty to people or animals
- Covert acts such as frequent lying, theft, and fire setting [Page xxv]
- Not getting along with others
- Low school motivation during elementary school
- Substance use (without parental permission)
Repeated victimization plays a role in an unknown proportion of cases of child delinquents. This victimization may take the form of child abuse by adults or of extended exposure to bullying by peers.
What are common consequences of delinquency during childhood? Aside from the harm inflicted on others, there are many negative consequences of an early onset of delinquency that can affect the quality of life of the offenders.
- The repeated practice of disruptive behavior and delinquent acts during a formative period of life is likely to contribute to the solidification of antisocial habits over time.
- Years of engaging in delinquency robs youths of many opportunities to learn prosocial behavior.
- Engaging in persistent disruptive behavior and delinquency often is associated with poor social skills, leading to major and repeated disturbances in social relationships, initially with relatives and peers and later with partners, employers, and co-workers.
- Persistent disruptive behavior tends to elicit enduring negative reactions in others, possibly further aggravating the disruptive behavior.
- Low interest and motivation in educational matters associated with child delinquency frequently is associated with recurrent disruptive behavior in classrooms, referral to remedial and often alternative special education services, and (eventually) chronic truancy and early school dropout.
- The resulting poor educational achievement has major effects on later employment opportunities and lifetime income.
In addition, there are several problems associated with child delinquents who become recidivist offenders.
- Child recidivists are more likely to become fathers at a young age and often are unable or unwilling to fulfill the father role or to assume financial responsibilities for their partners and children. For this and other reasons, the children of very young offenders are at risk for disruptive behavior.
- Young aggressive delinquents have an especially high risk of emotional problems such as depressed mood.
- Early-onset offenders often start using substances at a young age and are at risk for becoming substance abusers.
- Young delinquents who become serious and violent offenders are at high risk for criminal victimization in the community and, as a consequence, have a higher likelihood of being killed or seriously injured.
In summary, there are many negative consequences attached to children starting their delinquent activities at an early age.Risk Factors
What are risk factors for offending at a young age?
- Risk factors for child delinquency, like risk factors applicable to older juvenile offenders, are situated in the individual child, the family, the peer group, the school, and probably the neighborhood in which the child lives.
- It is likely that early on in a child's life, the most important risk factors are individual factors (e.g., birth complications, exposure to lead, difficult temperament, hyperactivity, impulsivity, sensation seeking) and family factors (e.g., parental antisocial or delinquent behavior, parental substance [Page xxvi]abuse, parents' poor child-rearing practices, mother's smoking during pregnancy, teenage motherhood). Later risk factors are peer influences, school influences, and community factors.
- No single risk factor explains child delinquency. Rather, the higher the number of risk factors (e.g., poor parental supervision, poor academic performance) or the higher the number of domains of risk factors (e.g., risk conditions in the family or the school), the higher the likelihood of early-onset offending.
- Although genetic effects for child delinquency cannot be excluded, there is abundant evidence that factors in the child's social environment influence long-term outcomes.
- Although there are some risk factors that are common to child delinquents, the pattern and particular combination of risk factors may vary from child to child.
- Nevertheless, a great deal has been learned about risk factors for child delinquents in general that is relevant for screening and intervention.
There are some risk factors in the family that apply especially, but not exclusively, to child delinquents:
- Family disruption, especially a succession of different caretakers
- Parental antisocial or delinquent behavior
- Parental substance use
- Maternal depression
- Child abuse and neglect
- Family members' carelessness in allowing children access to weapons, especially guns
Child delinquents, as compared to older offenders, are five times more likely to be placed outside the home for their protection, partly the result of their living in unsuitable family circumstances. However, such placement may itself constitute a risk factor for later offending.
The following peer risk factors are important:
- Association with deviant or delinquent siblings and peers
- Rejection by peers
Major risk factors in the schools include the following:
- Poor academic performance
- Weak bonding to school
- Low educational aspirations
- Low school motivation
- Poorly organized and functioning schools
Risk factors in the community include the following:
- Neighborhood disadvantage and poverty
- Disorganized neighborhoods
- Availability of weapons
- Media portrayal of violence
Protective factors are factors associated with a reduction in risk for child delinquents to develop into serious and violent juvenile offenders. Protective factors are as important as risk factors and can inform us better about what types of interventions are likely to work. Many known protective factors are the inverse of risk factors. Examples of protective factors for child delinquency and disruptive behavior include the following:
- Female gender
- Prosocial behavior during the preschool years
- Good cognitive performance
The presence of a single protective factor is no guarantee that a youth with multiple risk factors will avoid child delinquency. What [Page xxvii]matters is the proportion of risk and protective factors because the presence of multiple protective factors may buffer or offset the impact of children's exposure to multiple risk factors. But ultimately, those with many risk factors and few protective factors are at highest risk for becoming serious, violent, and chronic offenders.Interventions
What are the opinions of practitioners about interventions with child delinquents? Our survey of practitioners showed that nearly three quarters (71%) thought that there were effective ways of dealing with child delinquents to reduce their risk of offending in the future. However, only 3% to 6% thought that current juvenile court procedures were effective in achieving this aim; that current mental health programs were effective; or that current child welfare, dependency, and neglect programs were effective. Nearly all practitioners (88%) agreed that there was an acute problem for the juvenile courts concerning how best to deal with child delinquents.
Are there effective interventions for known child delinquents? In the juvenile justice system, an unknown proportion of child delinquents is handled by the police. Some are referred to the juvenile courts, where about half are petitioned and 60% of these subsequently are adjudicated. Of those nonpetitioned, about one third are put on probation and 1% are placed in custody. The effectiveness of these interventions in preventing serious, violent, and chronic offending is not known.
At present, there are only a few well-organized, integrated programs for child delinquents in North America. Most of these involve the coordinated efforts of several of the following: the police, public prosecutors, judges, schools, and mental health services. Although innovative and promising, these programs still remain to be evaluated. Funding of these programs often remains uncertain from year to year, and their long-term continuation is greatly dependent on stability in the administration and funding of services for child delinquents.
Integrated and well-researched programs also are necessary for the sake of parents, who often are at a loss as to where to seek advice and treatment for their children. A common place for comprehensive assessments in communities should be established, preferably in a community mental health center or a community assessment center.
- Serious child delinquents. There is no evidence to date that incarceration of serious child delinquents results in a substantial reduction in recidivism or the prevention of serious and violent offending careers. Also, there are concerns that correctional placement of child delinquents usually leads to exposure to and victimization by older serious delinquent offenders and further fuels criminogenic propensities in child delinquents. Instead, more programs specifically targeted toward child delinquents need to be devised, implemented, and evaluated. However, because serious child delinquents are relatively uncommon, this might not be feasible in many jurisdictions. Alternatively, a few specific detention facilities for child delinquents should be established so that child delinquents can receive services from child experts. Ideally, programs for serious child delinquents should be based on risk/needs assessments and should target their specific needs. The role of alternative sanctions through the child welfare and mental health systems needs to be explored. Juvenile justice, child welfare, and mental health treatments of serious child delinquents need to be more carefully based on empirical evidence about effectiveness.
- Nonserious child delinquents. We do not advocate increasing the likelihood of legal sanctions for nonserious child delinquents. Most nonserious child delinquents can be best dealt with in the mental health and child welfare systems with a focus on the [Page xxviii]administration of well-evaluated nonlegal interventions to parents of child delinquents. Screening methods should be used to distinguish between those juveniles among the nonserious child delinquents who are at risk for becoming serious and violent offenders and those who are likely to desist. However, the caveat is that child delinquents who recidivate in committing nonserious offenses should be brought to court, and the threat of further court proceedings then could be used to encourage compliance with treatment interventions.
Are there early effective nonjudicial interventions? It can be argued that there is a need to prevent disruptive child behavior in the first place outside of the juvenile justice system. We agree that such primary prevention is highly desirable.
Primary prevention refers to interventions to promote prosocial behavior and discourage deviant behavior in unselected populations of children. There are several well-evaluated primary prevention programs available consisting of conflict resolution and violence prevention curricula that focus on enhancing children's problem-solving and social interaction skills. In addition, programs that seek to educate children about the causes and destructive consequences of violence, such as the Second Step curriculum and the Responding in Peaceful and Positive Ways curriculum, significantly reduce aggressive behavior. Benefit-cost studies show that primary prevention programs can be highly cost-effective because they substantially reduce the costs to society of later serious offending. For example, a benefit-cost analysis of the Perry Preschool program found that, for every $1 spent on the program, more than $7 was saved by taxpayers and crime victims.
Interventions for disruptive youth. Several effective programs exist that focus on the reduction of early persistent disruptive child behavior, and some of these interventions are known to reduce the risk of later serious, violent, and chronic offending. Examples include parent management training, functional family therapy, and multisystemic therapy. Other interventions focus on those parent behaviors that increase the risk of persistent disruptive behavior in children (e.g., child abuse, marital conflict and violence, parental psychopathology), but their effect on child behavior remains to be established.
Stimulant medication for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) often is used with success. However, there currently is no evidence that stimulant medication prevents delinquency during childhood or serious and violent offending later.
Effective interventions in the peer domain include peer relations training, but great caution needs to be exercised by program staff because putting disruptive and delinquent youths together in groups may activate and aggravate deviant behavior.
In schools and communities, the following programs are recommended: classroom and behavior management programs, multicomponent classroom-based programs, social competence promotion curricula, conflict resolution and violence prevention curricula, bullying prevention, after-school recreation programs, mentoring programs, school organization programs, and comprehensive community interventions. It is not clear which neighborhood programs are effective in preventing or dealing with child delinquents.
The best and most effective programs do not focus on a single risk domain, such as the family or the peer group, but instead focus on several domains.
Are there effective screening methods to identify high-risk child delinquents? Our practitioner survey indicated that the vast majority (85%) agreed that better screening instruments were needed to discriminate between child delinquents who are at high risk for becoming serious and violent juvenile offenders and those who are not. Currently, a few screening methods are available. Although they are based on known risk factors, their predictive utility remains to be evaluated. The same applies to screening devices [Page xxix]to identify high-risk youths among very young children with disruptive behavior.
Are there interventions that can do harm? Not all interventions for children are beneficial. For example, some programs bring delinquent or highly disruptive children together for group therapy. Knowledge about the effectiveness of routine interventions is an absolute necessity to eliminate interventions that can have deleterious effects. The more widely used the interventions, the more urgent this knowledge.Service Needs
For which problems (other than delinquency) do child delinquents require services? Child delinquents often have co-occurring problems. Therefore, some child delinquents can be considered multiproblem youths. Examples of problems other than persistent disruptive behavior or delinquency include the following:
- Early substance use
- Depressed mood
- Peer rejection
- Educational problems such as academic underachievement and truancy
Knowledge of the co-occurring problems is important because they can influence the course of delinquency over time and because each of these problems requires unique interventions.Service Delivery
What are the service needs of child delinquents? Because many child delinquents have multiple problems at a young age, they tend to receive services from several agencies either concurrently or sequentially. Thus, during their early years, child delinquents consume a disproportionately large amount of funds and resources of the following:
- The juvenile justice system
- Mental health agencies
- Child welfare and child protection agencies
It is not clear to what extent educational and mental health needs are met for child delinquents who are confined. In schools, child delinquents often receive services such as special education to address learning and behavior problems. Currently, few programs in schools focus on child delinquents.
Mental health services for child delinquents are meant to address disruptive behavior (oppositional defiant disorder and conduct disorder) and ADHD. However, studies show that many children qualifying for mental health services do not receive them or receive only a few sessions that cannot be expected to bring about significant behavior change. Furthermore, mental health services of child delinquents often depend on parents having adequate insurance coverage for their children to cover the costs of these services. Currently, large portions of the population, especially those in poverty, lack such insurance and, therefore, cannot receive effective mental health services for disruptive and delinquent children.
Because many child delinquents are victims of child abuse and have troubled parents, child welfare services often are involved in protecting such children. However, child welfare agencies are pressed to devote resources to child abuse and neglect cases. As a consequence, programs and resources specifically to serve child delinquents (and their siblings, who often are at risk for becoming child delinquents) often are inadequate.
In summary, we recommend that interventions for persistent disruptive children and child delinquents should have the following features:[Page xxx]
- Be integrated across services
- Focus on children before age 13 years
- Apply multimodal interventions, addressing more than one domain of risk factors (e.g., the individual child and the family, the family and the school)
- Address multiple problems of the child where necessary
Are interventions for child delinquents taking place sufficiently early? Overall, society appears more prepared to carry the huge costs of dealing with serious and violent juvenile offenders during adolescence and adulthood rather than to take cost-effective preventive measures during childhood.
Currently, most juvenile justice resources are spent on adolescent juvenile offenders rather than on child delinquents and are not spent in proportion to the risk of long-term serious outcomes. The same typically applies to schools, where most of the resources of special education and behavior management are funneled into middle schools and high schools rather than into elementary schools and preschools. Similarly, programs for child delinquents undertaken by welfare agencies often are directed at children whose disruptive behavior already is persistent. We strongly argue for professionals in schools and those working with families to shift their perceptions of an early intervention time frame from elementary school to infancy and toddler-hood. The key findings on which this recommendation is based are as follows.
- The foundations for developing prosocial and antisocial behavior are established during the first 5 years of life.
- Some preschool children engage in very serious antisocial behavior.
- In some cases, disruptive behavior problems occurring as early as age 3 years predict delinquency at a very young age.
In summary, a reorientation of agencies toward early prevention is urgently needed to redirect resources to deal with youths at a younger age. This needs to be accomplished along with interventions for serious forms of delinquency by juveniles of any age.
Do services need to be integrated? Our survey of practitioners indicated that they were nearly unanimous (99%) in agreeing that more integration among agencies (e.g., juvenile justice, child welfare, mental health, schools) was needed to deal with very young offenders. Several of the pioneering programs currently being evaluated involve consistent coordination between different agencies concerned with child delinquents.Some Important Legal Issues
Important legal issues include the following:
- State jurisdiction. States differ greatly in their minimum ages for delinquency jurisdiction and their enactments of alternative bases for court jurisdiction (e.g., CHIPS [child in need of services], FINS [family in need of services]).
- Legal competency of child delinquents. It is debatable whether most child delinquents are legally competent to understand the severity of charges, court proceedings, and the implications of sentences. Competency assessments are needed prior to judicial processing. Child advocates are needed to represent the interests of child delinquents.
- Right to counsel and other constitutional rights. This is of importance to juvenile delinquents of any age, but often it is more complicated because of child delinquents' poor ability to understand their rights, the administration of Miranda warnings, the privilege against self-incrimination, and so on.
- Legal ways in which to make parents responsible for the actions of their children who offend. Proposals have been put forward to make parents more legally responsible for the lawbreaking of their children and especially to provide sanctions for parents who do not restrict juveniles' access to [Page xxxi]guns. In addition, parents of child delinquents may be forced to participate in parenting classes or other treatment interventions. However, the effectiveness of such interventions has not been established.
Research findings to buttress evidence-based decision making concerning child delinquents is urgently needed. Specifically, knowledge is needed on the following.
- What are other warning signs signaling a deviant development toward offending at a young age and, eventually, serious and violent forms of delinquency?
- What are developmental pathways toward these outcomes, particularly during the preschool years?
- What are common combinations of risk factors associated with these outcomes?
- What are combinations of protective factors associated with the desistance in disruptive behavior and child delinquency?
- How can the range of effective interventions for child delinquents be expanded?
- What are the best risk/needs assessments and screening methods to be used by the police, juvenile court officers, teachers, mental health officials, and child welfare professionals?
- What are the most cost-effective interventions?
When talking about the disruptive and delinquent behavior of juveniles, people often will say, “He will grow out of it” or “Boys will be boys.” Either statement belies the fact that we currently do not know which children will cease their disruptive or delinquent behavior. What we know for sure is that the risk of child delinquents becoming serious, violent, and chronic offenders is two to three times higher than that of nondelinquent children.
Several of our conclusions run counter to prevailing opinions about child delinquents and are deserving of attention.
- There is no evidence of a new and more serious “breed” of child delinquents and young murderers.
- Today's child delinquents are not necessarily destined to become tomorrow's “super-predators.”
- It is hazardous to ignore delinquent acts and problem behavior of child delinquents in the hope that they will “grow out of it.”
- We do not know how to predict which preschoolers will become child delinquents and, subsequently, serious and violent juvenile offenders.
- Much can be done to prevent child delinquency or escalation into chronic criminal careers later.
- Incarceration in a detention center or correctional facility is inappropriate for most child delinquents.
- Child delinquents should not be transferred to the criminal justice system and imprisoned with adult offenders.
- There is no evidence that the implementation of harsher sanctions in the juvenile justice system is efficient for reducing child delinquency.
- No single agency (e.g., the juvenile justice system, school, mental health, child welfare) is best equipped to reduce child delinquency in the community. Instead, partnerships between different agencies are likely to be more productive and efficient in dealing with child delinquents.
In conclusion, persistent disruptive behavior and child delinquency are necessary conditions for later serious and violent offending. For that reason, we argue that our efforts to reduce serious forms of delinquency should not consist of a single-track focus on either delinquents in general or known [Page xxxii]chronic offenders. Instead, our efforts should encompass children with persistent disruptive behavior, child delinquents, and serious and violent juvenile offenders (Figure E. 1).
We maintain that a dual focus on children with persistent disruptive behavior and child delinquents has several major advantages.
- Both groups at a young age are less likely to be exposed to additional risk factors that are characteristic for such youths at a later age.
- Both groups are less likely to have incurred the many negative social and personal consequences of disruptive and delinquent behavior persisting over many years.
- There are effective interventions to reduce both persistent disruptive behavior and delinquency offenses at an early age that prevent serious, violent, and chronic offending in the long run.
- The monetary savings to society of such interventions will be very large, and the reduction of harm to victims can be expected to be enormous.
Appendix A: Risk/Needs Assessment and Screening Devices[Page 395]
This appendix first discusses risk assessment technology. Next, three child delinquency risk assessment instruments are reviewed. In the final section, suggestions are made with respect to risk assessment instrument work that is needed for child delinquents.Risk Assessment Technology
Risk assessment instruments sort offenders into groups with differing probabilities of reoffending (Wiebush, Baird, Krisberg, & Onek, 1995) using a predetermined set of scale items known to have a statistical relationship with recidivism. These instruments are designed to estimate the likelihood of reoffending within a given time period (e.g., 18 to 24 months) and are based on the statistical relationship between youth characteristics (risk factors) and recidivism rates (for discussions of the essential properties of risk assessment instruments, see Baird, 1984, and Wiebush et al., 1995; for prediction studies and methodologies, see Farrington & Tarling, 1985).
Sufficient prediction research has been conducted to establish salient predictors for a range of outcomes in different juvenile justice settings (for reviews, see Jones, 1996, and Wiebush et al., 1995). Research results supporting the validity of risk assessments have increased dramatically during recent years (Andrews, 1996). Many of the juvenile justice system instruments were modeled after the Wisconsin Delinquency Risk Assessment Instrument (Baird, 1981, reproduced in Wiebush et al., 1995, and Howell, 1995). It consists of 11 criminal history and stability items: age at first referral to juvenile court intake, prior referrals to juvenile court intake, prior assaults, prior out-of-home placements, prior runaways (from home or placement), prior behavior problems (including truancy), history of physi- [Page 396]cal or sexual abuse as a victim, history of neglect as a victim, history of alcohol or other drug abuse, history of serious emotional problems, and peer relationships (including negative influences and gang involvement). The predictive validity of the Wisconsin risk instrument has been established in a number of sites (for referenced validations, see Bonta, 1996, and Wiebush et al., 1995). It is used in the National Council on Crime and Delinquency's (NCCD) Model Case Management System for juveniles that incorporates a structured decision-making model to achieve the best match among offender characteristics, sanctions, and programs (Baird, 1984; Wiebush et al., 1995). Needs assessments often are used in tandem with risk assessments to assist in developing treatment plans and achieving a good match between offenders' treatment needs and specific program interventions (for a review of items typically included in a needs assessment instrument [e.g., family relationships, substance abuse, mental health stability, school problems, peer relationships, employment/vocational skills], see Wiebush et al., 1995).
Taking a similar comprehensive approach, the state of Washington is implementing a structured decision-making model based on a statewide risk assessment of all juvenile court referrals (including child delinquents referred to the courts) (Washington State Institute for Public Policy, 1998). This initiative was mandated in the Washington Community Juvenile Accountability Act of 1997 as part of a statewide program to match juvenile offenders with effective programs, with the assistance of the Washington State Institute for Public Policy (Aos, Phipps, Barnoski, & Lieb, 1999).
The Washington Association of Juvenile Court Administrators Risk Assessment instrument consists of three components: criminal history, social skills, and protective factors; thus, it integrates risk and needs assessment. A pre-screening instrument, which is a subset of the full assessment, also is used. The full assessment (conducted by trained juvenile court probation counselors) consists of 10 domains: criminal history, school, use of free time, employment, relationships, family, drug/alcohol use, mental health, attitudes, and social skills. Training and administration of the instrument are managed by computerized software (Allvest Information Services, 1999). A contractor developed the software to record the assessment instrument information and then “score” youths, first for risk (using the pre-screen) and then for program eligibility. The software also is used for tracking youths' progress while under community supervision and while confined (if applicable). A validation study is expected to be completed in the year 2002.
Risk assessment instrument development specifically for child delinquents is in its infancy. First, instruments used to identify potential problem youngsters typically are designed to identify a variety of problem behaviors, not necessarily pre-delinquent behavior. Second, most risk assessment instruments used to assess child delinquents in the juvenile justice system are rather crude instruments that do not incorporate a scoring system and do not classify offenders into subgroups according to degree of risk. These generally are used to aid in placement decisions, not necessarily for the purpose of developing treatment plans. Placement or screening instruments are used to assess program eligibility and to make placement (or classification) decisions.Three Risk Assessment Instruments for Child Delinquents
The following are examples of risk assessment (screening) instruments for identifying very young offenders currently in use in the United States and Canada. These are the most well-developed instruments found that currently are in use in child delinquent programs or programs that included child delinquents in their clientele. These risk assessment instruments typically are used for dual purposes—screening potential program clients [Page 397]and developing treatment plans—and not to assess recidivism likelihood. The Very Young Offender Study Group is not endorsing any of these instruments. Rather, the instruments are reviewed for the purpose of describing the state of the art of risk assessment of child delinquents.Under 12 Outreach Project
The Under 12 Outreach Project (ORP) of the Earlscourt Child and Family Centre in Toronto has developed the Early Assessment Risk List for Boys (EARL-20B) (Augimeri, Webster, Koegl, & Levene, 1998). This consultation version, the EARL-20B, is a clinically based assessment device that allows certain areas of a child's and family's life to be “red-flagged” for services. It also helps to match services with the child's level of risk. It is designed to promote multidisciplinary team assessment of risk of aggression and violence. Only the EARL-20B Summary Sheet is in this appendix (Table A. 1). The manual for the Consultation Edition (Augimeri et al., 1998) is available for purchase from Earlscourt.
The EARL-20B also might prove to be a predictive device. It is based on the scientific literature, especially successful schemes that predict violence and sexual offending in adults (Kropp, Hart, Webster, & Eaves, 1995; Webster, Douglas, Eaves, & Hart, 1997) and on the Earlscourt Child and Family Centre's experience with the ORP children. The EARL-20B brings clinicians up to date on developmental studies of the nature and course of childhood aggression under three broad categories: family, child, and amenability (responsivity and treatability). The family, child, and amenability items are shown in the EARL-20B Summary Sheet (Table A. 1). A total of 20 items are covered in die scoring form, and each area consists of multiple indicators (as explained in the manual for the Consultation Edition [Augimeri et al., 1998]). For example, indicators of family stressors include divorce, imprisoned parents, physically ill parents, unemployment, and so on. Earlscourt also is developing a consultation version of the EARL-20B for girls (or EARL-20G).TABLE A.1 Early Assessment Risk List for Boys (EARL-20B) Summary Sheet (This sheet must be used in conjunction with the EARL-20B, Version 1–Consultation Edition manual.)
The EARL-20B has been tested for clinician interrater reliability with positive results (Hrynkiw-Augimeri, 1998), but it has not been validated concurrently or predictively as a risk assessment scheme. Currently, the National Crime Prevention Centre (Canada) is funding a retrospective study involving the coding of 450 clinical files by three independent raters using the EARL-20B scheme. This sample consists of the total pool of children serviced by the ORP since the program's inception in 1985 and who, at the time of the current study, were eligible for youth and adult court contacts (i.e., age 12 years or over). EARL-20B scores will be compared to criminal conviction data, demographic information, and scores on the Child Behavior Checklist (Achenbach & Edelbrock, 1983). The purpose of this study is to determine whether the EARL-20B can accurately predict which boys will and will not engage in future offending behavior.
One advantage of the EARL-20B is that it provides clinicians with a thorough assessment procedure, a guide to help target treatment interventions. Its main disadvantage is that it has not yet been validated for use as a screening or predictive device. How well it might work in screening a community sample is not clear. It might prove to be limited for this broader population because it is clinically based, relying on child and family characteristics, rather than taking into account more information regarding the broader range of risk factors in a child's environment, particularly in the school, peer group, and community domains.Delinquents under 10 Program
The Delinquents Under 10 program in Hennepin County, Minnesota, uses a Risk Factor Check List (Table A.2) to screen cases (Hennepin County Attorney's Office, 1995, 1998). Based on empirical studies of factors related to onset of delinquency, it consists of six items that are scored for cumulative [Page 398][Page 399]risk-level: (a) number and severity of initial police contacts; (b) family violence, child abuse, and neglect; (c) other problems with family functioning; (d) family criminal and delinquent histories; (e) school problems; and (f) lack of positive supportive relationships. The program screening team considers the results of this risk screening in conjunction with two other factors to determine admission to the program and the level of intervention: the alleged delinquent act or indicated problem behavior and the degree of the child's volition. This instrument has not yet been validated. However, it has strong face validity for identification of the highest risk child delinquents (Stevens, Owen, & Lahti-Johnson, 1999).TABLE A.2 Delinquents Under 10: Risk Factor Check List
[Page 400]The main advantage of the Risk Factor Check List is that it taps a wide range of risk factors that the literature shows to be related to onset of delinquency. The one exception is negative peer group involvement. However, this factor might have been excluded because of the very young ages of the target group. As for disadvantages, the Risk Factor Check List, like the EARL-20B, has not yet been validated for use as a screening or predictive device for referred children. Again, as in die case of the EARL-20B, how well it might work in screening a community sample is not clear. The Risk Factor Check List might need to be restructured for use as a predictive device. It produces only a total score and does not classify youths at different levels of risk depending on their total scores.8% Early Intervention Program
The Orange County Probation Department in California uses a risk assessment instrument to identify, among first-time referrals to the juvenile courts, youngsters who are at risk for becoming chronic, serious, and violent juvenile offenders. It is incorporated in the Intake Assessment Worksheet (Table A.3) that is scored by court intake officers.TABLE A.3 Intake Assessment Worksheet: 8% Early Intervention Program
The Orange County risk assessment instrument was derived empirically on two samples of more than 6,000 court referrals (Kurz & Moore, 1994; Schumacher & Kurz, 1999). The objective of the analysis was to determine statistical correlates of chronic (four or more court referrals) offending among probationers. Chronic recidivists (10% of the first sample, 8% of die second sample) were identified by four criteria: significant family problems (e.g., abuse/neglect, criminal family members, lack of parental supervision and control), significant school problems (e.g., truancy, failing multiple courses, recent suspension or expulsion), a pattern of individual problems (e.g., drug use, alcohol use), and pre-delinquent behavior patterns (e.g., youth gang associates, chronic runaway, stealing). In the second sample, these four factors correctly predicted chronic recidivism in 70% of the cases, with 19% false positives and 11% false negatives. With youths age 15 years or under, the degree of accuracy rose to 77%. A similar test was conducted on a third sample of 905 first-time wards of the court age 15 or under. In 66% of the cases, the four factors correctly identified youths as chronic recidivists, low-rate recidivists, or non-recidivists. This test produced 28% false positives and only 6% false negatives.
This instrument has not been validated for identification of child delinquents; it has only been validated for identification of high-rate offenders among court referrals age 15 years or under. Nevertheless, it is significant for its success in predicting high-rate recidivism among offenders during early adolescence. This suggests mat it might be possible to develop a similar risk assessment instrument for identification of potential high-rate offenders among very young (age 12 or under) court referrals.Future Work
This appendix has reviewed only risk assessment instruments for delinquency involvement and recidivism used in conjunction with the juvenile justice system. There are many other purposes and uses of screening and classification of children related to the services of other human service agencies. These include mental health, health, child protective issues (e.g., abuse, neglect), child welfare, and educational disabilities (e.g., learning problems). Of course, all of these problem areas could be related to delinquency involvement, and ideally, screening for them should occur in conjunction with risk assessment for delinquency and recidivism. It also is important to remember that different professionals conduct screenings and risk assessments in various agencies for different purposes that might not be compatible with one another.
None of the risk assessment instruments used in the preceding programs has been validated [Page 401][Page 402][Page 403]against independent criteria on predictive validity over time. Even cross-sectional concurrent validity still remains to be done. Thus, the issue remains as to which risk assessment instruments can be administered with high validity across raters. Each instrument is based on a different source of profile data. Consideration needs to be given to which individuals are in the best position to gather the information needed for each instrument. It appears that court intake workers would be in the best position to perform risk assessments because of their immediate access to court and other human service agency files. However, for early intervention purposes, risk assessments also need to be done on child delinquents before they reach the juvenile courts. Indeed, many of them are not referred to the courts or are referred much too late in their offender careers for interventions to be effective (Stouthamer-Loeber, Loeber, Van Kammen, & Zhang, 1995).
It is very important to have empirically driven methods for screening child delinquents and for the screening criteria and decisions based on them to have theoretical underpinnings. By way of illustration, risk and predictors of court contact (Day, 1998) and predictors of delinquency were examined by Day and Hunt (1996) in samples of Earlscourt Child and Family Centre clients. The latter study examined the predictive validity of five child factors that contribute to development of antisocial behavior identified by Loeber (1990, 1991a): age of onset, variety of antisocial behaviors, variety of settings, severity of aggressive behavior, and hyperactivity. Severity of aggressive behavior and variety of antisocial behaviors were the best predictors of parent-reported delinquent activity among the child delinquents (Day & Hunt, 1996). This type of investigation is imperative as a first step in the development of empirically driven risk assessment instruments. Next, establishing theoretical linkages among risk predictors will enhance both the practical and scientific value of empirically based instruments. Developmental criminology is the most promising theoretical perspective for linking risk predictors with offender groups of different ages and at different stages of progression in criminal pathways (Le Blanc & Loeber, 1998; Loeber & Le Blanc, 1990).
While work is progressing on this front, it is important to validate and revise existing risk assessment instruments. It remains to be seen whether these instruments can be used to significant advantage in predicting recidivism in addition to assigning individuals to interventions. The first step is to empirically validate existing instruments and revise them, as appropriate, using study samples of child delinquent program clients, as currently is being done in “the ORP program. Other instruments can be developed using the growing empirical knowledge base of risk factors for delinquency, particularly early onset of delinquency (see Trem-blay & LeMarquand [Chapter 7]; Wasserman & Seracini [Chapter 8]; Coie & Miller-Johnson [Chapter 9]; and Herrenkohl, Hawkins, Chung, Hill, & Battin-Pearson [Chapter 10] in this volume). Instrument validation also is needed on different types of populations (including minorities), and gender-specific risk assessment instruments are needed.
Another area in which work is needed is the development of treatment needs assessment instruments for child delinquents. In the Model Case Management System developed by the NCCD (Wiebush et al., 1995), needs assessments (using separate instruments) are done in tandem with risk assessments to place offenders in different supervision levels, and then in programs within various supervision levels, using a matrix that organizes sanctions and programs by risk level and offense severity so as to obtain the best match between offender risk and needs and treatment programs. Canadian researchers are incorporating treatment needs assessment items with risk factors to strengthen the predictive power of risk assessment instruments (Bonta, 1996; Gendreau, 1996; Jones, 1996). Their studies show that needs assessment also has predictive validity for recidivism (see especially Bonta, 1996). Thus, needs items are viewed as criminogenic indicators that may be considered a subset of risk factors.
[Page 404]Large-scale experiments will, of course, advance more quickly the state of the art of risk assessment instrument development and validation. For example, the state of Washington experiment described earlier is generating thousands of risk assessments on court referrals statewide. This database could be used to empirically generate and validate a risk assessment instrument for very young offenders among the court referrals.
In conclusion, much work remains to be done in the area of risk assessment of child delinquents. This is largely because, in general, the risk assessment enterprise only recently gained momentum, particularly during the past decade (Andrews, 1996). Thus, risk assessment of child delinquents remains in its infancy. However, the work in the sites reviewed in this appendix represents very good progress.
Appendix B: Children under Age 12 Years Who Commit Offenses: Canadian Legal and Treatment Approaches[Page 405], , and
The purpose of this appendix is to provide an overview of Canadian federal, provincial, and territorial legislation with regard to Canadian children under age 12 years who commit offenses, to consider child welfare and police practices toward these children in Canada, and to describe recommended interventions for children under age 12 at risk for or engaging in mild, moderate, and serious offenses.Federal and Provincial Legislation in Canada for Child Delinquents
Under Canadian law, children under age 12 years are not criminally liable for their behavior. In 1984, the Young Offenders Act (YOA) raised the minimum age of criminalization in Canada from 7 to 12. Since that time, children under age 12 who commit or are alleged to have committed offenses have been exempt from the youth justice system. There was a general consensus that it would be more appropriate for these children to access services provided or enabled through provincial and territorial child welfare and mental health legislation.
Provincial and territorial child welfare legislation vary in their directions to the police when confronted with a child delinquent. However, in general, police have the authority to detain a child who has committed, or is alleged to have committed, an offense and to return the child to his or her parents or guardians or to a place of safety (i.e., a child welfare [Page 406]agency). This limited power is exemplified in Ontario's Child and Family Services Act (CFSA), whereby the police are authorized to apprehend a child without a warrant if the police believe, on reasonable and probable grounds, that the child has “committed an act in respect of which a person twelve years of age or older could be found guilty of an offence.”
If the police take or report a child to a child welfare agency, then that agency may place the child in temporary care and/or initiate a child abuse investigation. According to the CFSA, if the investigation or court concludes that the child is not “in need of protection,” then the child is returned to his or her parents or guardians. Initially, a child's delinquent or aggressive behavior may be the basis for child welfare contact depending on the province or territory. Table B.1 describes which of the 13 provinces and territories have specific references in their child welfare legislation to offending behavior by children under age 12 years.TABLE B.1 References to Children Under Age 12 Years Who Commit Offenses in Canadian Child Welfare Legislation
For the 10 provinces and territories that have sections relating to offending behavior by children under age 12 years, continued intervention is possible only if there is some determination that the child's parents are unable to address or remedy the child's aberrant behavior. To continue the Ontario example, according to the CFSA, a child under age 12 may be deemed “in need of protection” if he or she has
killed or seriously injured another person or caused serious damage to another person's property, services or treatment are necessary to prevent a recurrence, and the child's parent or the person having charge of the child does not provide, or refuses or is unavailable or unable to consent to, those services or treatment.How Does the Child Welfare System Respond to Child Delinquents?
Goldberg, Augimeri, Koegl, and Webster (1999) recently conducted a study for Justice Canada to determine child welfare responses in the provinces and territories to children under age 12 years who commit offenses. They conducted structured telephone interviews with the child welfare directors for Canada's provinces and territories. The purpose of the [Page 407]interviews was to document current legislative, procedural, and programmatic approaches across the provinces and territories toward children under age 12 who commit offenses and to solicit informed opinions about the adequacy of these approaches.
Not surprisingly, results indicated that the emphasis in child welfare is on child protection, not offending behavior per se. For example, child welfare assesses only children's need of protection from parental abuse or neglect. Furthermore, Goldberg and colleagues (1999) found no consistent tracking of the number of referrals that child welfare receives from the police for children under age 12 years who commit offenses.
Nonetheless, the majority of respondents to the survey stated that current provincial child welfare legislation is “adequate.” Others cited the lack of provisions for dealing with children who engage in offending behavior, and particularly serious offending behavior, as a specific shortcoming. Respondents also were quick to point out that there is a lack of provincially funded programs specifically designed to meet the needs of children under age 12 years who commit offenses. Moreover, although they would be able to outline plans of care in the most extreme cases on an ad hoc basis, respondents generally could not comment specifically on what happens to children who commit minor, moderate, and repeated minor offenses. Taken as a whole, the results of the survey strongly suggested that child welfare systems across Canada are not responding in any systematic manner to children under age 12 who commit offenses.How Do the Police Respond to Children under Age 12 Years Who Commit Offenses?
Despite the fact that the police are society's gatekeepers to services for children under age 12 years who commit offenses, relatively little is known about how they are responding to these children. The police in Canada are not required by any federal, provincial, or territorial legislation to track the number or nature of offenses committed by children under age 12. A recent review by Roberts (1999) revealed that approximately 1.5% of criminal incidents in 1997 involved children under age 12, although he noted that these limited data are not reliable. Consequently, the true incidence of offending by Canadian children under age 12 is not known.
To learn more about police responses to these children, Justice Canada funded a survey conducted in partnership with the Ottawa-Carleton Regional Police Service Working Group on Children in Conflict With the Law (Augimeri, Goldberg, & Koegl, 1999). The specific focus of this survey was to investigate police practices in Canada with children under age 12 years who commit offenses.
The goal of the survey was to obtain a sample of approximately 150 urban and rural police services across the country. Of the 62% (91 of 147) of police services that responded to the survey, 62% were in urban areas, 34% were in rural areas, and 4% were aboriginal services. In brief, when asked how they handle children under age 12 years who are suspected of committing offenses, their responses ranged from returning the children to their parents to referring the children to a child welfare agency. The frequency of the latter response increased with the severity of the offense. Other community-based agencies, such as schools, mental health centers, and community recreation centers, also were used to provide nonspecified interventions.
Police officers also were asked a number of questions to determine whether they had formal procedures or protocols with respect to children under age 12 years consistent with their provincial or territorial child welfare legislation. Only one police service, the Toronto Police Service, reported having a protocol. This protocol channels child delinquents into relevant community-based treatment services.
The Earlscourt Child and Family Centre in Toronto expedited the development of this centralized police protocol for children under age 12 years having police contacts with a Partners Against Crime grant from the Ontario Ministry of the Solicitor General and Correctional Services. [Page 408]The Toronto Police Service and other major stakeholders, including child welfare, children's mental health services, school boards, the Toronto Fire Service, and other community agencies, now participate in what is known as the Toronto Centralized Services Protocol for Children Under 12 in Conflict With the Law in Conjunction With the Toronto Police Service. This protocol is a coordinated procedure among service providers to ensure that children under age 12 having police contacts are connected with appropriate services in their own community in a timely manner through a single entry access system.
Currently, if a child under age 12 years engages in activities that, but for his or her age, would have led to criminal charges and if abuse is not suspected, then the police return the child to his or her home and inform the child's parents that resources are available within their community to assist them with their child's difficulties. On receiving parental consent, police refer the family for service by calling the central intake line established by the protocol.
This central intake line is not a 24-hour emergency crisis line. However, the protocol standard is for parents to receive a call from the coordinating agency within 24 hours. The purpose of this call is to confirm presenting problems, the family's geographical location (to determine which services are available in the child's neighborhood), and interest in pursuing services. If appropriate, the worker establishes a mutually convenient time to meet the child and family in their home to further describe and determine the appropriateness of the program. Families living in the catchment area of the partner agencies are informed that the central line worker can facilitate their access to these agencies.How Do Services Respond to Children under Age 12 Years Who Commit Offenses?
With regard to sustained, empirically based, multifaceted interventions in Canada designed for children under age 12 years who commit offenses, the Under 12 Outreach Project (ORP) of the Earlscourt Child and Family Centre stands alone (Hrynkiw-Augimeri, Pepler, & Goldberg, 1993) (for a description of the ORP, see Howell [Chapter 13] in this volume). Multifaceted interventions may be preferred for children under age 12, especially those who engage in moderate and serious offending (Day, 1998; Day & Hrynkiw-Augimeri, 1996; Kazdin, 1987a). Restorative justice approaches, such as youth justice committees, victim-offender mediation, and family group conferencing, are available in only a few communities in Canada. These approaches have not been evaluated with children under age 12. To match the needs and risks of children and their families to treatment components and to provide an estimate of change, an assessment instrument was developed (Hrynkiw-Augimeri, 1998). Currently, this device, the Early Assessment Risk List for Boys (EARL-20B) (Augimeri, Webster, Koegl, & Levene, 1998), is being piloted and validated through a grant from the National Crime Prevention Centre. It attempts to assess risk in children under age 12 years who commit offenses and to assist clinicians in determining the level of risk for future offending and in allocating services according to children's levels of need (see Howell [Appendix A] in this volume).Summary and Recommendations
The decriminalization of children under age 12 years in Canada in 1984 did not lead to the systematic development of interventions tailored to their unique needs such as basing interventions on risk of further offending. With few exceptions (e.g., severe cases), the police were found to not systematically refer these children to child welfare agencies. Child welfare agencies across Canada have not developed a systematic response to these children and their families. Consequently, Goldberg and colleagues (1999) have recommended to [Page 409]the Canadian government several initiatives to address the specific needs of children under age 12 who commit offenses. These initiatives are the establishment of Community Teams for Children Under 12 Committing Offenses, a new legislative response known as the Children Committing Offenses Act (CCOA), and the development of a National Information Center on Very Young Offenders designated to encourage, monitor, and evaluate interventions for children under age 12 who commit offenses.Community Teams for Children under 12 Committing Offenses
Although varying by community, these teams would be mandated to ensure the provision of services for these children and their families as well as their teachers, peers, and communities as indicated for as long as is required. The teams would consist of representatives from the police, child welfare, schools, mental health and recreation centers, and others deemed to be local stakeholders. Their boundaries would mirror those of local child welfare agencies.
Community teams would conduct needs and risk assessments and allocate interventions for these children according to offense severity (at risk, mild, moderate, or serious). For example, children at risk for committing offenses might be experiencing academic difficulties or peer rejection or might be exhibiting aggressive behavior such as bullying. Mild offenses would include first-time petty thefts or acts of vandalism or mischief. Moderate offenses would include acts of repeated thefts, breaking and entering, involvement in fire setting, and minor assault. Serious offenses would encompass persistent offending and specific offenses such as arson, aggravated assault, assault with a weapon, sexual assault, and homicide. Under this framework, interventions would be tailored to children's and families' individual needs through an assessment of risk of further offending and an evaluation of the needs of the children and their families through measures such as the EARL-20B. Based on this assessment, single-, dual-, and multifaceted interventions would be made available. In the case of very serious, repeated, or escalating offending, temporary placement options would be available ranging from a secure mental health facility for children to a treatment foster home. One-to-one care would be available as required in these temporary settings as well as in children's own homes. Lack of parental consent in the face of children's serious, repeated, or escalating offending, or where public safety is considered an issue, would result in child welfare involvement, likely leading to recommendations for the children's removal from their homes. Tables B.2, B.3, B.4, and B.5 outline a planning and intervention schema based on offense severity (at risk, mild, moderate, and serious).TABLE B.2 Promoting Success in Canadian Children Under Age 12 Years at Risk for Commiting OffensesTABLE B.3 Promoting Success in Canadian Children Under Age 12 Years Who Commit Mildly Serious OffensesTABLE B.4 Promoting Success in Canadian Children Under Age 12 Years Who Commit Moderately Serious OffensesTABLE B.5 Promoting Success in Canadian Children Under Age 12 Years Who Commit Serious OffensesChildren Committing Offenses Act
The proposed CCOA would mandate services for children under age 12 years who commit offenses and their families based on an assessment of the children's risk of further offending, ensure some accountability of their behavior, and meet community standards of public safety. The CCOA would provide clear direction to the police regarding their responsibilities in tracking these children and in ensuring the provision of services to them according to established protocols. Specially designated under age 12 police liaison officers (Augimeri, Goldberg, & Koegl, 1999) would be trained to intervene with these children, liaise with community agencies, and participate on Community Teams for Children Under 12 Committing Offenses.National Information Center on Very Young Offenders
This proposed center would encourage, monitor, and evaluate interventions for children [Page 410]under age 12 years. It would track the incidence of offending by children under age 12 and act as a clearinghouse for interventions designed to meet their needs and deter further offending. On the prevention side, the center would facilitate a nationally sustained parent education program to promote parenting skills consistent with raising prosocial children. In addition, it would promote, monitor, and evaluate elementary school-based anti-bullying and anti-stealing campaigns that target not only the entire school population but also those children most at risk for offending behavior.Conclusion
Canadian provincial and territorial child welfare legislation is framed around the concept [Page 411]of “a child in need of protection.” Policy makers originally assumed that this framework would be sufficient to enable services for children under age 12 years who commit offenses. However, child welfare systems across Canada are not responding to these children in any systematic manner. Current provincial and territorial legislation has not led to the systematic provision of services for children under age 12 who commit offenses, [Page 412]has not led to regular police reporting, and does not require assessment of risk of further offending. We have the knowledge to interrupt patterns of delinquency and ameliorate its severity in children under age 12. Canada has taken a first step in responding to the needs of these children by developing the ORP, the EARL-20B, and the Toronto Centralized Services Protocol for Children Under 12 in Conflict With the Law in Conjunction With the Toronto Police Service. However, it remains to be seen whether the [Page 413][Page 414]Canadian government can mobilize the provinces and territories to continue the momentum generated from these initiatives and take action to address the treatment needs of children under age 12 who commit offenses.
Nevertheless, these initiatives can serve as a model to other jurisdictions within the United States and Europe that seek to address the problem of offending in very young children. The present authors advocate that similar programs operate outside the scope of the criminal or youth justice system and assume a treatment-oriented, nonpunitive framework emphasizing early identification and rehabilitation. However, the extent to which this is possible depends on legal, structural, and practical considerations unique to each jurisdiction as well as the ability of key local stakeholders to work together to improve the life chances of child delinquents.
Appendix C: Leading Longitudinal Studies on Delinquency, Substance Use, Sexual Behavior, and Mental Health Problems with Childhood Samples[Page 415], , and
The following is a list of leading longitudinal studies with child samples at the beginning of each study that measured delinquency, substance use, sexual behavior, and mental health problems. Each cited study is organized as follows: principal investigator(s), name of study (if available), and country; sample and follow-up; and selected recent publication.Battistich: Child Development Project (United States)
A total of 5,331 boys and girls in Grades 3 to 6 from school districts throughout the United States were followed from 1991 to 1994. Assessments included teachers and students. The focus was on assessing a school program aimed at reducing drug use and delinquency.
Brook (United States)
- (Battistich, Schaps, Watson, & Solomon, 1996)
A total of 695 African American and 637 Puerto Rican adolescents from East Harlem, New York, were assessed in 1990. A follow-up study was conducted 5 years later. The focus was on predicting delinquency and drug use in a minority sample.
[Page 416]R. Cairns and B. Cairns: Carolina Longitudinal Study (United States)
- (Brook, Whiteman, Balka, Win, & Gursen, 1998)
Starting in 1981,695 boys and girls in Grades 4 and 7 were followed up annually. Assessments included the children, parents, grandparents, and other caretakers. The focus was on aggression, school dropouts, and gender differences.
Campbell (United States)
- (Cairns & Cairns, 1994)
A total of 112 preschool boys (42 teacher identified for attention deficit disorder, 27 parent identified for attention deficit disorder, and 43 classroom controls) were studied. Follow-up was done 2 years later when children were age 6 years. Both home and laboratory observations were conducted.
Cohen and Brook (United States)
- (Campbell, Pierce, March, Ewing, & Szumowski, 1994)
A random sample of 975 mothers of children ages 5 to 10 years living in upper New York State were interviewed in 1975. Both mothers and children were interviewed at two follow-ups in 1983 and 1985–1986. The focus was on the relationship between drug use and delinquency.
Coie and Dodge: Durham Longitudinal Study (United States)
- (Brook, Whiteman, & Finch, 1992; Cohen et al., 1993; Kogan, Smith, & Jenkins, 1977)
A total of 1,147 children were followed from Grades 3 to 10. The sample was predominantly African American and from low to middle lower socioeconomic status. The focus was on peer rejection and aggression as predictors of adolescent disorder. A subsample was followed into adulthood.
Conduct Problems Prevention Research Group: Fast Track (United States)
- (Coie, Terry, Lenox, Lochman, & Hyman, 1995)
The program begins in Grade 1 and continues through Grade 6. This is a multisite prevention research project to promote competencies in children at risk for conduct disorders. It includes intervention and control groups. Children are identified using teacher and parent ratings.
Costello and Angold: Great Smoky Mountains Study of Youth (United States)
- (Conduct Problems Prevention Research Group, 1992)
This is an epidemiological longitudinal study of 1,416 white and American Indian children ages 9 to 13 years. Follow-ups are conducted annually. The focus is on mental health problems and service use in a rural region of the southeastern United States.
Deater-Deckard (United States)
- (Costello, Angold, Burns, Erkanli, et al., 1996; Costello, Angold, Burns, Stangl, et al., 1996)
A total of 141 school-aged boys and girls in full-time child care and their mothers were followed up 4 years after initial assessment. The focus was on effects of child care and home environment on later internalizing and externalizing problems.
Dembo and Williams (United States)
- (Deater-Deckard, Pinkerton, & Scarr, 1996).
This study began during the spring of 1997 with 399 youths who entered a detention center in Tampa, Florida. The purpose was to identify youths at risk for future drug use, delinquency, and criminal behavior. Drug screens were performed at time of follow-up approximately 1 year later.
[Page 417]Dinitz and Conrad: Dangerous Offender Projects (United States)
- (Dembo et al., 1988)
In the first project, all 1,222 children who were born during 1956–1960 and arrested for at least one violent offense as juveniles (before age 18 years) in Columbus, Ohio, were studied. They were followed up in adult arrest records to 1983. The second project studied 1,591 adult offenders arrested for violence in Columbus during 1950–1976.
Dodge, Pettit, and Bates (United States)
- (Hamparian, Davis, Jacobson, & McGraw, 1985; Miller, Dinitz, & Conrad, 1982)
A total of 585 children (304 boys and 281 girls) and their teachers and peers were assessed at home and at school annually from kindergarten to Grade 3. The focus was on socialization processes that account for later behavior problems.
Douglas and Wadsworth: National Survey of Health and Development (United Kingdom)
- (Dodge, Pettit, & Bates, 1994)
A total of 5,362 children were selected from all legitimate single births in England, Scotland, and Wales during 1 week of March 1946. They were followed up in criminal records to age 21 years. Medical and school data were collected at ages 26, 36, and 43 years.
Eaves: Virginia Twin Study of Adolescent Behavioral Development (United States)
- (Wadsworth, 1991)
The study was begun in 1987 and includes 1,412 monozygotic and dizygotic twin pairs ages 8 to 16 years. The focus is on genetic and environmental risk factors for psychopathology and behavioral development.
Egeland (United States)
- (Eaves et al., 1997)
A total of 275 high-risk mothers and their infants were followed through the infants' 1st year of life. Mothers were recruited from public health clinics. Follow-ups were done periodically over a 17-year period. The focus was on how poverty affects development.
Elkins: Minnesota Twin Family Study (United States)
- (Carlson et al., 1999; Egeland & Brunnquell, 1979)
A total of 650 male and 650 female twin pairs and their families initially were assessed at ages 11 and 17 years. Annual phone interviews and follow-up visits every 3 years are planned until the children are ages 20 and 26 years. The focus is on the development of substance abuse and associated psychological disorders.
Elliott and Huizinga: National Youth Survey (United States)
- (Elkins, Lacono, Doyle, & McGue, 1997)
The study used a nationally representative sample of 1,725 adolescents ages 11 to 17 years in 1976. The youths were interviewed during 5 successive years (1977 to 1981) and again in 1984, 1987, 1990, and 1993. The focus was on self-reported delinquency, but arrest records also were collected.
Eron and Huesmann: Columbia County Study (United States)
- (Elliott, 1994a)
A total of 875 8-year-old children in a semirural setting of New York State were first assessed in 1960. The focus was on aggressive problem behavior. Follow-up interviews were done 10 and 22 years later.
[Page 418]Farrington and West: Cambridge Study in Delinquent Development (United Kingdom)
- (Eron & Huesmann, 1990)
The sample consisted of 411 boys ages 8 and 9 years during 1961–1962 in six London schools. Boys were contacted about every 2 to 3 years up to age 32 years. Families were contacted every year while the boys were at school. Boys and all biological relatives were searched in criminal records up to 1994.
Fergusson: Christchurch Health and Development Study (New Zealand)
- (Farrington, 1995b)
The sample consisted of 1,265 children born in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 1977. They were studied at birth, 4 months, 1 year, and annually up to age 16 years and then again at age 18 years. Data from mother, child, and teacher included self-reported delinquency and substance use.
S. Glueck and E. Glueck (United States)
- (Fergusson, Horwood, & Lynsky, 1994)
The sample consisted of 500 male delinquents in Massachusetts correctional schools during 1939 to 1944 and 500 matched nondelinquents. They were contacted at average ages of 14, 25, and 31 years. Nondelinquents were followed up to age 47 years by Vaillant. Original data were reanalyzed by Sampson and Laub.
Gottfried: Fullerton Longitudinal Study (United States)
- (Glueck & Glueck, 1968; Sampson & Laub, 1993b; Vaillant, 1983)
This was a 10-year longitudinal study on the developmental-behavioral significance of infant temperamental difficulties. A total of 130 1-year-olds and their families and teachers were followed up to age 12 years. Behavioral problems were assessed at the 3rd year of life and annually at ages 4 to 12 years by parents and at ages 6 to 11 years by teachers.
Gorman-Smith and Tolan: Chicago Youth Development Study (United States)
- (Gottfried, Bathurst, & Gottfried, 1994)
A total of 362 African American and Latino boys in Grade 5 or 7 (ages 11 to 15 years) at Chicago public schools were studied in 1991. They continue to be followed up yearly, with data being gathered from the boys, their mothers, and their teachers
Greenbaum: National Adolescent and Child Treatment Study (United States)
- (Gorman-Smith & Tolan, 1998).
The sample consisted of 812 children ages 8 to 18 years who initially were identified as having serious emotional disturbance. They were followed up annually for 7 years. Data were obtained from children, caretakers, teachers, and educational records.
Hawkins and Catalano: Seattle Social Development Project (United States)
- (Greenbaum et al., 1996)
The sample consisted of all (N = 808) consenting Grade 5 students (age 10 years) in 18 elementary schools in Seattle, Washington, during the fall of 1985. Some students in the sample had been studied since Grade 1 and had been exposed to an experimental school intervention. Annual follow-up interviews were done through 1993. Follow-ups also were done in 1996 and 1999.
[Page 419]Huizinga and Elliott: Denver Youth Survey (United States)
- (Hawkins, Catalano, Kosterman, Abbott, & Hill, 1999)
This probability sample of households yielded 1,500 children in high-risk neighborhoods of Denver, Colorado, who were ages 7,9,11,13, and 15 years in 1988. Follow-ups were done at almost yearly intervals and still are ongoing.
Janson and Wikstrom: Stockholm Project Metropolitan (Sweden)
- (Huizinga, 1995)
The sample consisted of all 15,117 children born in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1953 and living in Stockholm in 1963. They were tested in schools in 1966. A subsample of mothers were interviewed in 1968. They were fol-lowed-up in police records through 1983.
Jessor (United States)
- (Wikstrom, 1990)
The study included a sample of 1,126 high school students (Grades 7 to 9) first assessed in 1969 (average age 14 years) and a sample of 497 freshman college students first assessed in 1970 (average age 19 years). It included self-reports of problem behavior and substance use. Follow-ups were done through 1981.
Kandel (United States)
- (Jessor, Donovan, & Costa, 1991)
A total of 8,206 adolescents from a representative secondary school sample (Grades 10 and 11) in New York State were studied. Completed self-report substance use questionnaires were used during the fall of 1971 and a half year later; a total of 5,574 parents responded to questionnaires. Adult follow-ups of a subsample were done in 1980, 1984, and 1990 (n = 1,160).
Kellam and Ensminger: Woodlawn Project (United States)
- (Kandel, Yamaguchi, & Chen, 1992)
A sample of 1,242 students in Grade 1 in an African American Chicago neighborhood (Woodlawn) was first assessed during 1966–1967. The focus was on shy and aggressive behaviors and substance use. They were reassessed during 1975–1976. They were followed up by Ensminger and McCord in 1993.
Kolvin: Newcastle 1000—Family Study (United Kingdom)
- (Ensminger, Kellam, & Rubin, 1983)
The sample consisted of all 1,142 children born in Newcastle during May-June 1947. Children and families were contacted at least once a year up to age 15 years and finally at age 22 years. Children were followed up in criminal records to ages 32 and 33 years. A subsample of participants (n = 266) were interviewed at ages 32 and 33 years. Members of the original sample, their spouses, and their children were followed up in criminal records through 1994.
Le Blanc (Canada)
- (Kolvin, Miller, Scott, Gatzanis, & Fleeting, 1990)
A total of 1,029 kindergarten French Canadian boys and their families were studied in 1984. Children were reinterviewed over the phone when they were ages 10, 11, and 12 years. The focus was on family and adolescent delinquency.
Le Blanc and Frechette: Montreal Longitudinal Studies (Canada)
- (Le Blanc, McDuff, & Kaspy, 1998)
The first study consisted of a representative sample of 3,070 French-speaking Montreal adolescents. They completed self-report questionnaires [Page 420]in 1974 at ages 12 to 16 years and again in 1976. The second study consisted of 470 male delinquents seen at age 15 years in 1974 and again at ages 17 and 22 years. All were followed up in criminal records to age 25 years. Males were interviewed at age 32 years.
Lewinsohn: Oregon Adolescent Depression Project (United States)
- (Le Blanc & Frechette, 1989)
A total of 1,709 randomly selected adolescents were assessed between 1987 and 1989 and were followed up approximately 1 year later. The focus was on depression and substance use.
Loeber and Lahey: Developmental Trends Study (United States)
- (Lewinsohn, Hops, Roberts, Seeley, & Andrews, 1993)
The sample consisted of 177 clinic-referred boys who were ages 7 to 12 years at the beginning of the study (1987–1988). Yearly follow-ups have been done with diagnostic assessments and many other measurements. Currently, they are in the 9th year of follow-ups.
Loeber, Stouthamer-Loeber, and Farrington: Pittsburgh Youth Study (United States)
- (Loeber, Green, Keenan, & Lahey, 1995)
A total of 1,517 boys in Grades 1, 4, and 7 in public schools in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, during 1987–1988 (ages 7, 10, and 13 years) were studied. Information from the boys, parents, and teachers was gathered every 6 months for 3 years, and then every year, with a focus on delinquency, substance use, and mental health problems.
Magnusson and Stattin: Orebro Project (Sweden)
- (Loeber, Farrington, Stouthamer-Loeber, & Van Kammen, 1998)
The sample consisted of 1,027 children (age 10 years) in Orebro, Sweden, in 1965. They were followed up at ages 13 and 15 years. They were followed up in criminal records to age 30 years. Two other cohorts born in 1950 and 1952 also were followed up.
J. Mccord and W. Mccord: Cambridge-Somerville Youth Study (United States)
- (Klinteberg, Andersson, Magnusson, & Stattin, 1993)
The sample consisted of 650 boys (average age 10 years) nominated as difficult or average by schools in Cambridge and Somerville, Massachusetts, during 1937 to 1939. Experimental group members were visited by counselors for an average of 5 years. Follow-up was done during 1975 to 1980 by mail questionnaires and interviews and in criminal records.
Mednick: Copenhagen Birth Cohort Studies (Denmark)
- (McCord, 1991b)
In the first study, all 28,879 men born in Copenhagen during 1944 to 1947 and still alive and in Denmark in 1974 were followed up in police records to 1974. The second study examined 216 children born in Copenhagen during 1959 to 1961 with extensive perinatal data. They were followed up in police records to age 22 years.
Mitchell: Buckinghamshire Survey (United Kingdom)
- (Kandel & Mednick, 1991; Moffitt, Mednick, & Gabrielli, 1989)
A total of 642 children ages 5 to 15 years in 1961 in Buckinghamshire, England, were rated by their parents. Their criminal records [Page 421]were followed up to 1976. Samples were followed up by interview and mail questionnaires in 1978.
National Institute of Child and Human Development, Early Child Care Research Network: Nichd Study of Early Child Care (United States)
- (Mitchell, 1987)
A total of 1,364 families of healthy newborns were enrolled in the study in 1991. Biannual data collection began when the children were age 1 month and continued until approximately age 24 months, at which time assessments were continued annually. The focus was on child care experiences as predictors of later socioemotional and cognitive development.
Offord: Ontario Child Health Study (Canada)
- (National Institute of Child and Human Development, Early Child Care Research Network, 1998)
A total of 1,302 boys and girls ages 12 to 16 years and their female heads of household participated, starting in 1983 and followed up in 1987. The focus was on substance use and problem behavior including delinquency.
Patterson: Oregon Youth Study (United States)
- (Boyle etal., 1992)
This is a follow-up of 206 Grade 4 boys in Eugene, Oregon, first assessed in 1984 and followed up at yearly intervals, with intensive assessments every other year (latest published at Grade 8). Follow-up also includes juvenile court records.
Plomin and Defries: Colorado Adoption Project (United States)
- (Capaldi & Patterson, 1994)
Beginning in 1975, 182 adopted and 165 nonadopted infants and their biological or adoptive parents were tested when the children were ages 12 and 24 months. Follow-ups were done to age 12 years. The focus was on genetic and environmental origins of individual differences.
Pulkkinen: Jy Vaskyla Longitudinal Study on Social Development (Finland)
- (Plomin & DeFries, 1985)
A total of 369 children (196 boys and 173 girls) ages 8 and 9 years located in Jy vaskyla, Finland, in 1968 completed peer, teacher, and self-ratings. They were followed up at ages 14, 20, and 26 years with questionnaires and to age 26 years with criminal records. The study still is ongoing.
Raine and Venables (Mauritius)
- (Pulkkinen & Pitkänen, 1993)
A total of 1,795 children (51.4% boys and 48.6% girls) from the tropical island of Mauritius were recruited in 1972 when they were age 3 years. Most children were either Indian or Creole. Of these children, 1,130 were assessed when they were age 11 years. The focus was on physical and psychological characteristics that predispose children to aggression.
Robins (United States)
- (Raine, Reynolds, Venables, Mednick, & Farrington, 1998)
The first study sample consisted of 524 children treated in a child guidance clinic in St. Louis, Missouri, during 1924 to 1929 and 100 public school children. They were interviewed [Page 422]more than 30 years later. The second study sample consisted of 235 black males born in St. Louis during 1930 to 1934 and located in elementary school records. They were interviewed during 1965–1966.
Rutter and Quinton: Inner London and Isle of Wight Studies (United Kingdom)
- (Robins, 1979)
The first study sample consisted of all 1,689 10-year-old children in inner London borough attending state schools in 1970. The second study sample consisted of all 1,279 10-year-old children on the Isle of Wight attending state schools in 1964. Both samples were retested at age 14 years. Inner London children were followed up in criminal records to age 25 years.
Sanson and Prior: Australian Temperament Project (Australia)
- (Rutter, 1981)
A total of 2,443 children ages 4 to 8 months and their teachers and parents were followed up approximately every 6 months to age 10 years. The focus was on temperament, behavior, and family background.
- (Sanson, Prior, & Smart, 1996)
A total of 324 French Canadian students in Grade 1 (age 7 years) in Montreal were assessed by peers and self-reports in 1978. They were followed up at ages 10 and 14 years when self-reported delinquency was measured.
Shaw (United States)
- (Tremblay, Masse, etal., 1992)
A total of 100 mother and infant dyads were recruited from a government-operated nutritional supplement program. Infants were ages 6 to 11 monms at the start of the study and were followed up when they were ages 12,18, 24,36, and 60 months. The focus was on early negative child behavior and parent-child interactions in relation to later internalizing and externalizing problems.
Silva and Moffitt: Dunedin Study (New Zealand)
- (Shaw, Keenan, & Vondra, 1994)
A total of 1,037 children born during 1972–1973 in Dunedin, New Zealand, were first assessed at age 3 years and followed up to age 21 years. Biannual evaluations were done on healm, psychological, educational, and family factors. Self-reported delinquency was measured at ages 13,15,18, and 21 years. Police records were collected up to age 18 years.
Stanger (United States)
- (Moffitt, Silva, Lynam, & Henry, 1994)
A total of 1,103 boys and girls age 4 to 18 years were followed up an average of 6 years after referral. The study sought to identify early problems that might predict later syndromes among referred children. Parent and teacher data, as well as criminal records, were obtained.
Thornberry, Lizotte, and Krohn: Rochester Youth Development Study (United States)
- (Stanger, MacDonald, McConaughy, & Achenbach, 1996)
A total of 1,000 students in Grades 7 and 8 were first assessed in 1988, disproportionally sampled from high-crime neighborhoods. Three quarters were male. Initial assessments were done at half-yearly intervals. Subsequent assessments were carried out yearly and still are ongoing.
[Page 423]Tremblay: Montreal Longitudinal Study of Disruptive Boys (Canada)
- (Thornberry, Lizotte, Krohn, Farnworth, & Jang, 1994)
A total of 1,161 kindergarten boys in Montreal were assessed by teachers and followed up annually to age 12 years. The sample included disruptive boys who were part of a prevention experiment.
Verhulst (The Netherlands)
- (Tremblay, Vitaro, et al., 1992)
A total of 2,600 children ages 4 to 16 years from Zuid-Holland were first assessed in 1983 and then followed up at 2-year intervals over 8 years. Assessment of mental health functioning was done by mothers, and self-reports were used as well.
Werner: Kauai Longitudinal Study (United States)
- (Ferdinand & Verhulst, 1994)
A total of 698 children in Hawaii were tracked from birth in 1955 in Kauai. They were interviewed at ages 10, 18, and 32 years. Health, education, and police records were collected.
Widom: Longitudinal Study of Abused Children (United States)
- (Werner & Smith, 1992)
A total of 908 abused children under age 11 years were identified in court records in Indianapolis, Indiana, during 1967 to 1971. This group and 667 matched control children were studied. Both samples were followed up in arrest records to 1994.
Wolfgang, Thornberry, and Figlio: Philadelphia Birth Cohort Studies (United States)
- (Widom, 1991)
The first study sample consisted of 9,945 boys born in Philadelphia in 1945 and living there at least from ages 10 to 17 years. A 10% sample was interviewed at age 26 years and followed up in police records to age 30 years. The second study sample consisted of 27,160 children born in Philadelphia in 1958 and living there at least from ages 10 to 17 years. They were followed up in police records to age 26 years.
- (Tracy, Wolfgang, & Figlio, 1990; Wolfgang, Thornberry, & Figlio, 1987)
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