Prevention of Delinquency
Prevention of Delinquency
As we have seen in Chapter 3 (Prevalence of Delinquency), the phrase “juvenile delinquency” may refer to the “continuum of behavior that transgresses social norms,” ranging from socially unacceptable behavior (acting out in school) to status offenses (running away) to criminal acts (burglary). This broad definition sets wide boundaries on a discussion of prevention. Preventing disruptive behavior in the early elementary grades is quite a different task from preventing major criminal acts among high-school-age gangs. The former focuses more on altering individual and family functioning, while the latter involves alterations in the peer culture, the school experience, and the broader social environment. In any case, a review of the literature on prevention of delinquency produces few programs that can be cited as models of primary prevention at early or late stages. A very small number of programs could generate evidence that they stopped the onset of delinquent behavior. Interventions were cited, however, that have an indirect effect on later delinquency by modifying “acting out” and conduct disorders at very early ages. Many of the programs discussed in the literature focus on secondary prevention, working with adjudicated juvenile delinquents to lower the rates of recidivism (repeat offenses), and almost none of those appear to meet with great success. The dearth of successful prevention programs in the area of delinquency is not surprising in light of the complexity of the problem and its deep-seated causes. The usual difficulties with evaluation design are compounded in this field by murky definitions. Repeated reviews of literally thousands of studies have produced almost none with adequate evaluations. Leitenberg’s commentary on the “state-of-the-art” is not very encouraging: … My thoughts about primary prevention programs in delinquency tend to be pessimistic. Unless the larger political, organizational, economic and social issues are addressed … we will make small headway… . I think the most productive area is not within the realm of psychology, sociology, psychiatry, social work, or criminology—it is within the area of politics…
Keywords: Adolescent Diversion Project, Behavioral Social Skills Training, California Conservation Corps, Dade County crime watch program, Family service agencies, Homeless youth shelters, Juvenile Court volunteers, Moral reasoning training, Neighborhood Watch
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