The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), through its Research and Program Development Division (hereinafter the Research Division), translates research into action. The Research Division also strives to promote science-based research, rigorous and informative evaluations of demonstration programs, and meaningful statistics. The Research Division's overall mission is to generate credible and useful information for improved decisionmaking to prevent and reduce juvenile delinquency and victimization.

This Report summarizes the Research Division's achievements in three areas:

  • Research. The Research Division sponsors empirical studies on an array of topics related to juveniles and delinquency, from the roots of violence to the impact of victimization. Studies range from exploratory and descriptive to rigorously analytical.

  • Evaluation. One of the Research Division's important functions is to identify what works. Evaluations measure the impact of programs that are geared to preventing or reducing juvenile delinquency and victimization. Many OJJDP-sponsored projects are community-based initiatives with multiple components that present special challenges when measuring the impact of interventions and specific programs.

  • Statistics. The Research Division sponsors the Nation's primary efforts in gathering data and statistics on juveniles and crime, including studies on juvenile detention and corrections populations, probation caseloads, and court activities.

To identify solutions to juvenile crime and delinquency, it is necessary to rely on what has been learned. The Research Division collaborates with a number of other Federal agencies to carry out research and evaluation efforts from which the findings will be useful to an interdisciplinary audience. The work produced through OJJDP research, evaluation, and statistics programs is used by:

  • Researchers in the field.

  • Practitioners on the front lines.

  • Policymakers at the Federal, State, and local levels.

Collaboration With Other Federal Agencies

OJJDP collaborates with other Federal agencies to cofund and oversee research related to juveniles. This enables the Office to use its funds most effectively and to ensure that efforts are not duplicative across agencies. OJJDP is in high demand as a partner with other agencies; many of these partnerships involve research and evaluation efforts. The Research Division is currently working on interagency efforts with the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the U.S. Departments of Education, Commerce (Bureau of the Census), Labor, and Health and Human Services (Administration for Children and Families, National Institute of Mental Health, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and National Institute on Drug Abuse). Partners within the U.S. Department of Justice include the National Institute of Justice, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the Office for Victims of Crime, the Violence Against Women Office, the Executive Office for Weed and Seed, and the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.

In addition, the Research Division works with other OJJDP divisions to use research in enhancing training efforts; improving program activities; informing the public; and crafting effective interventions and formulating policies that have a positive impact on individuals, families, and communities. One of the most successful examples of this continuum of activity has been OJJDP's Comprehensive Strategy for Serious, Violent, and Chronic Juvenile Offenders.1

Programs that promote protective factors and help reduce the risk factors that lead to juvenile crime are some of the best investments a community can make to lower its rate of delinquency. Evaluation and testing must be used to identify the strategies that work to keep juveniles from being arrested and entering the juvenile justice system in the first place. At the same time, it is important to identify effective treatment and aftercare programs that will help reduce the likelihood of recidivism.

An area in which OJJDP's research has made significant contributions is identifying risk and protective factors, that is, what puts a juvenile at risk for juvenile delinquency and what protects juveniles from becoming delinquent.

Decades of research have shown that the best prevention efforts are those that target risk and protective factors in five areas: individual, community, family, peer group, and school.

  • Risk factors increase the chances that a juvenile will engage in behavior that can lead to delinquency. Risk factors include availability of drugs or firearms in the community, family conflict, a lack of commitment to school, and friends who engage in problem behavior.

  • Protective factors either reduce the risks or change how a juvenile responds to these risks by enhancing positive behavior, health, and well-being. Protective factors include positive individual characteristics (e.g., having a resilient temperament); close relationships with family, teachers, and other supportive adults and peers; and beliefs and standards that promote school success and rejection of drugs and crime.

The Research Division is committed to disseminating research findings to inform the field and maximize program success. OJJDP strategically sponsors research that offers the greatest opportunities for understanding about preventing and intervening in juvenile delinquency and victimization and developing effective programs.

Space constraints make it impossible to cover fully the substantial number and scope of projects undertaken by the Research Division. Instead, this Report provides an overview of its efforts from 1996 to 1998, highlighting some of the most critical findings and emerging areas in which work has recently begun.

Developing the Comprehensive Strategy for Serious, Violent, and Chronic Juvenile Offenders

OJJDP has distilled what it has learned from research, statistics, and program evaluations, incorporating the principles and practices into the Comprehensive Strategy for Serious, Violent, and Chronic Juvenile Offenders, which identifies strategic responses for addressing juvenile crime at the community, city, State, and national levels.

The Comprehensive Strategy reflects the continuum of activity in OJJDP's research, demonstration, technical assistance, evaluation, and dissemination efforts. Through initial surveys and research on risk-focused prevention, OJJDP's Research Division works with the Special Emphasis Division to develop community-based demonstration programs that incorporate the major elements of an effective delinquency prevention and control program:

  • Supporting the family as children's first and primary teacher.

  • Enhancing the role of core institutions (e.g., schools, businesses, religious institutions) in developing capable, mature, and responsible youth.

  • Recognizing that delinquency prevention is the most cost-effective approach in combating youth crime.

  • Intervening immediately and effectively when delinquent behavior first occurs.

  • Establishing a system of graduated sanctions that responds to the needs of each juvenile offender while providing for community safety.

  • Targeting the small segment of serious, violent, and chronic juvenile offenders who commit a disproportionately high percentage of violent juvenile crime; placing them in secure facilities if necessary; and providing intensive aftercare services.

The Research Division is evaluating the Comprehensive Strategy in several local communities, taking what is being learned to improve programs. Together with OJJDP's Training and Technical Assistance Division, the Research Division is structuring effective training and technical supports for communities implementing the Comprehensive Strategy. The Research Division also works with the Information Dissemination Unit to inform the field and local communities about the principles underlying the Comprehensive Strategy, implementation strategies, and resources available for assistance.

The prevention component of the Comprehensive Strategy calls for coordinated efforts among the juvenile justice system and other service systems to establish a system of support that encourages positive youth development and provides alternatives to delinquent behavior. OJJDP's Title V Program, Incentive Grants for Local Delinquency Prevention Programs, embodies the key elements of what research has shown to be effective in prevention and provides critical resources to communities to implement a broad range of programs established in a local delinquency prevention plan.

To receive copies of Delinquency Prevention Works or OJJDP's Guide for Implementing the Comprehensive Strategy for Serious, Violent, and Chronic Juvenile Offenders, call 800-638-8736 (Juvenile Justice Clearinghouse).

1See Wilson, J.J., and Howell, J.C., 1993, Comprehensive Strategy for Serious, Violent, and Chronic Juvenile Offenders, Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

OJJDP Research: Making a Difference for Juveniles August 1999