I. A National Strategy for Juvenile Delinquency Prevention
2. From Research to Practice
The foundation of effective delinquency prevention practice is built on solid empirical research findings. To provide the solid foundation on which communities can frame their prevention and intervention strategies, OJJDP has supported numerous research projects that have significantly contributed to what is known about juvenile crime and delinquency and effective approaches to prevent and stop it. This section highlights key findings from two ongoing research efforts that are providing ground-breaking knowledge and understanding about the developmental pathways to juvenile crime and delinquency and helping to bridge the gap between research and practice by providing information that has direct implications for prevention programming: The Program of Research on the Causes and Correlates of Delinquency and the Study Group on Serious and Violent Juvenile Offenders.
2.1 The Causes and Correlates of Delinquency
Since 1986, OJJDP has funded three coordinated, longitudinal research projects that constitute the largest shared-measurement approach ever achieved in delinquency research. Collectively known as the Program of Research on the Causes and Correlates of Delinquency, research teams at the State University of New York at Albany, the University of Colorado, and the University of Pittsburgh have collaborated extensively to design and conduct studies of at-risk youth in Rochester, New York; Denver, Colorado; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The goal of this large longitudinal study is to provide an empirical foundation for a new generation of preventive, judicial, and therapeutic delinquency interventions(Kelley, Huizinga, Thornberry, & Loeber, 1997).
As a result of this program of research, we now know that:
We also know that the development of disruptive and delinquent behaviors is often left unchecked among many juvenile offenders. In Pittsburgh, problem behavior had been exhibited for an average of 6 years by boys in the eighth grade who had committed delinquent acts, but only 41 percent of these boys' parents had ever sought help from anyone, including friends, family members, or professionals. Further, only 20 percent of these delinquent eighth graders had been in contact with the juvenile court (Kelley, Loeber, Keenan, & DeLamatre, 1997).
Other studies on the causes of delinquency have identified two other conditions that affect child development and delinquency: adolescent childbearing and children's connections to their fathers. A synthesis of findings from eight separate studies on the consequences and costs of adolescent motherhood has shown that the sons of adolescent mothers are twice as likely to be victims of abuse and neglect and 2.7 times more likely to be incarcerated than the sons of mothers of who delay childbearing until their early 20's (Maynard & Garry, 1997). Other studies have shown that children who lack an ongoing, positive connection to their fathers do worse in school, have fewer positive relationships with their peers, and are more likely to become involved in the juvenile justice system than children with such a relationship. The National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP) has identified a number of barriers that prevent fathers from effective parenting, including poverty, poor relationships with the mother, incarceration, and difficulties making "the transition from biological fatherhood to committed fatherhood" (Garry, 1997).
These research findings have a number of important implications for delinquency prevention programming:
Not only does this research reinforce the underlying assumptions of the Community Prevention Grants Program model, it also provides empirical information that will help guide effective local delinquency prevention programming. Through a series of bulletins entitled the Youth Development Series, OJJDP is widely disseminating key findings from this research program to audiences nationwide.
2.2 Serious and Violent Juvenile Crime
Recognizing that States and communities implementing the Comprehensive Strategy would require up-to-date, detailed information about the risk and protective factors for serious and violent juvenile (SVJ) offending and the effectiveness of SVJ crime prevention and intervention strategies, OJJDP convened the Study Group on Serious and Violent Juvenile Offenders. Made up of 29 leading juvenile justice and criminology scholars, including lead researchers from the Program of Research on the Causes and Correlates of Delinquency, the StudyGroup has synthesized decades of research on factors that affect SVJ crime rates and strategies that aim to prevent and/or reduce SVJ offending. The Study Group published its most recent findings in a report that integrates the growing body of knowledge about risk and protective factors and the developmental pathways that lead to SVJ crime with knowledge about delinquency prevention and intervention programs (Loeber & Farrington, 1998).
The Study Group has drawn the following general conclusions from its analysis of SVJ crime data:
The Study Group also identified a number of areas for further research and evaluation. For example, there is a clear need for information about which delinquency prevention approaches work best for different age groups and for different types of offenders, particularly serious and violent offenders (Loeber & Farrington, 1998).
2.4 Translating Knowledge into Action
Together, these research projects have greatly increased our understanding of the factors associated with juvenile delinquency, the characteristics and developmental pathways of serious and violent juvenile offenders, and effective and promising approaches for preventing and intervening in juvenile delinquency. Moreover, they indicate that OJJDP's Comprehensive Strategy and Title V Community Prevention Grants Program are headed in the right direction. To help ensure that States and local jurisdictions benefit from this research, OJJDP regularly disseminates information through a variety of print and electronic media: a series of fact sheets, bulletins, research briefs, and program summaries; a multimedia CD-ROM; its Web site; and national teleconferences, as well as through various training and technical assistance packages.
Everything that we learn from the research about the causes and correlates of juvenile delinquency and crime puts us in a better position to prevent it from happening. And the Community Prevention GrantsProgram provides communities with a solid framework for applying what we know and continue to learn to their local delinquency prevention efforts. As illustrated in the following chapter, communities nationwide have used this framework to implement comprehensive delinquency prevention programs and have made notable progress in addressing the precursors to juvenile crime and delinquency.
3. The National Center for Children in Poverty has identified five promising approaches that States have developed to encourage responsible fatherhood: 1) increase public awareness about responsible fatherhood, 2) prevent unwanted or too-early fatherhood, 3) promote fathers' economic responsibility as providers, 4) encourage fathers as nurturers and enhance family and social relationships, and 5) build leadership capacity around fatherhood issues at both State and local levels (Garry, 1997).
1997 Report to Congress: Title V Incentive Grants for Local Delinquency Prevention Programs