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Program of Research on the Causes and Correlates of Delinquency


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Research and Evaluation





Initiated in 1986, the Program of Research on the Causes and Correlates of Delinquency (Causes and Correlates) is designed to improve the understanding of serious delinquency, violence, and drug use by examining how youth develop within the context of family, school, peers, and community. Causes and Correlates comprises three coordinated longitudinal projects: the Denver Youth Survey, directed by David Huizinga at the University of Colorado; the Pittsburgh Youth Study, directed by Rolf Loeber, Magda Stouthamer-Loeber, and David Farrington at the University of Pittsburgh; and the Rochester Youth Development Study, directed by Terence P. Thornberry at the University at Albany, State University of New York.

The three Causes and Correlates projects use a similar research design. All of the projects are longitudinal investigations involving repeated contacts with youth during a substantial portion of their developmental years. In each project, researchers conduct individual, face-to-face interviews with inner-city youth considered at high risk for involvement in delinquency and drug abuse. Multiple perspectives on each child's development and behavior are obtained through interviews with the child's primary caretaker and, in two sites, through interviews with teachers. In addition to interview data, the studies collect extensive information from official agencies, including police, courts, schools, and social services.

Causes and Correlates represents a milestone in criminological research because it constitutes the largest shared-measurement approach ever achieved in delinquency research. The three research teams work together to ensure that certain core measures are identical across the sites, including self-reported delinquency and drug use; community and neighborhood characteristics; youth, family, and peer variables; and arrest and judicial processing histories.

Denver Youth Survey
The Denver Youth Survey is based on a random sample of households in high-risk neighborhoods of Denver, CO. The survey respondents include 1,527 children and youth (806 boys and 721 girls) who were age 7, 9, 11, 13, or 15 in 1987 and who lived in 1 of the more than 20,000 households randomly selected from disadvantaged neighborhoods with high crime rates. Interviews with the youth and one caretaker were conducted annually from 1988 to 1992; this process resumed in 1995 and continued through 1999. The project has a high rate of retention, with completion rates of 91 to 93 percent in the first 5 years and a constant 80-percent rate for the 1995-98 period.

Pittsburgh Youth Study
The Pittsburgh Youth Study began with a random sample of boys in the first, fourth, and seventh grades of the Pittsburgh, PA, public school system. Information from the initial screening was used to select the top 30 percent of boys with the most disruptive behavior. This group of boys, together with a random sample of the remaining 70 percent who showed less disruptive behavior, became the sample for the study. The sample contains approximately 500 boys at each grade level, for a total of 1,517 boys. Each student and a primary caregiver were interviewed at 6-month intervals for the first 5 years of the study; teacher ratings of the student were also obtained. The middle sample (fourth grade) was discontinued after seven assessments. The youngest sample (first grade) and oldest sample (seventh grade) are currently being interviewed at annual intervals, with totals of 16 and 14 assessments, respectively. The study has been highly successful in retaining participants, with a retention rate of at least 85 percent for each assessment.

Rochester Youth Development Study
The Rochester Youth Development Study sample consists of 1,000 students (729 boys and 271 girls) who were in the seventh and eighth grades of the Rochester, NY, public schools during the spring semester of the 1988 school year. Males were oversampled because they are more likely than females to engage in serious delinquency and students from high-crime areas were oversampled based on the assumption that they are at greater risk for offending. This project is a 12- wave prospective panel study in which members of the sample and one of their parents were interviewed at 6-month intervals from 1988 to 1992 and at annual intervals from 1994 to 1996. At the end of wave 12, in spring 1997, 846 of the initial 1,000 subjects were reinterviewed (a retention rate of 85 percent); the retention rate for parents was 83 percent.
OJJDP Publication(s)
Causes and Correlates of Girls' Delinquency
Bulletin: Girls Study Group Series, April 2010. Provides a summary of the results of a review of more than 1,600 articles and book chapters from scientific literature on individual-level risk factors for delinquency and factors related to family, peers, schools, and communities. Available online only. 20 pages. NCJ 226358.
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Co-occurrence of Delinquency and Other Problem Behaviors
Bulletin: Youth Development Series, November 2000. Examines the co-occurrence or overlap of serious delinquency with drug use, problems in school, and mental health problems. 8 pages. NCJ 182211.
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Developmental Pathways in Boys' Disruptive and Delinquent Behavior
Bulletin: Youth Development Series, December 1997. Summarizes longitudinal research from the Pittsburgh Youth Study, which has documented three developmental pathways that boys follow as they progress to more serious problem behaviors. 20 pages. NCJ 165692.
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Early Precursors of Gang Membership: A Study of Seattle Youth
Bulletin: Youth Gang Series, December 2001. Presents Seattle Social Development Project data on youth who join gangs. 6 pages. NCJ 190106.
PDF(101 KB) 
Epidemiology of Serious Violence
Bulletin: Youth Development Series, June 1997. Examines the varying levels of juveniles' involvement in violent acts according to age, gender, and ethnicity and recommends a public health model of prevention, treatment, and control. 22 pages. NCJ 165152.
PDF(296 KB)Text(44.2 KB) 
Families, Neighborhoods, and Juvenile Victimization
OJJDP-Sponsored, 2005. This brief report presents findings from the Pittsburgh Youth Study on the association between family composition, community of residence, and youth victimization. 11 pages. NCJ 216001.
Family Disruption and Delinquency
Bulletin: Youth Development Series, October 1999. Examines the impact that multiple changes in family structure have on an adolescent's risk of serious problem behavior. 6 pages. NCJ 178285.
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Gang Members and Delinquent Behavior
Bulletin: Youth Development Series, June 1997. Presents the findings from the Rochester Youth Development Study concerning what portion of delinquency in American society can be attributed to gang members; it also discusses OJJDP's response to the youth gang problem. 6 pages. NCJ 165154.
PDF(287 KB)Text(27.1 KB) 
Gun Use by Male Juveniles: Research and Prevention
OJJDP-Produced, Bulletin: Youth Development Series, July 2001. This bulletin examines patterns of gun ownership and gun carrying among adolescents, drawing on data from OJJDP's Rochester Youth Development Study. 12 pages. NCJ 188992.
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Highlights of Findings From the Denver Youth Study
April 1999. This fact sheet presents highlights of findings from the Denver Youth Survey, a longitudinal study of urban youth aimed at identifying social conditions, personal characteristics, and developmental patterns linked to sustained involvement in delinquency and drug use. 2 pages. NCJ 247792.
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Highlights of Findings From the Pittsburgh Youth Study
February 1999. This fact sheet presents highlights from the Pittsburgh Youth Study, a longitudinal study looking at how and why boys become involved in delinquency and other problem behaviors. 2 pages. NCJ 175085.
PDF(69.9 KB)Text(7.56 KB) 
Highlights of Findings From the Rochester Youth Development Study
April 1999. This fact sheet presents highlights from the Rochester Youth Development Study, a longitudinal study that investigated the causes and consequences of adolescent delinquency and drug use. 2 pages. NCJ 181861.
PDF(70 KB)Text(8.15 KB) 
In the Wake of Childhood Maltreatment
Bulletin: Youth Development Series, August 1997. Presents findings on the relationship between childhood maltreatment and subsequent adolescent problem behaviors as determined by the Rochester Youth Development Study. 16 pages. NCJ 165257.
PDF(220 KB)Text 
Joint Impact of Family and Community Structure on Violent Delinquency
OJJDP-Sponsored, February 2005. This report presents findings from the Rochester Youth Development Study on the association between family structure, neighborhood disadvantage, and youth violent offending. 11 pages. NCJ 215999.
Predictors of Youth Violence
Bulletin: Serious and Violent Juvenile Offending Series, April 2000. Presents findings of OJJDP's Study Group on Serious and Violent Juvenile Offenders, which spent 2 years analyzing data collected by long-term studies of juvenile violence. 12 pages. NCJ 179065.
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Risk Factors for Delinquency: An Overview
This article defines risk factors, explains why they are important, and briefly discusses some of the major risk factors linked to delinquency and violence. 11 pages. NCJ 207540.
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Short- and Long-Term Consequences of Adolescent Victimization
Bulletin: Youth Violence Research Series, February 2002. Analyzes National Youth Survey data to explore how being a victim of crime during adolescence affects the likelihood of certain negative outcomes in adulthood, including violent and property offending and victimization, domestic violence perpetration and victimization, drug use, and mental health problems. 16 pages. NCJ 191210.
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Teenage Fatherhood and Delinquent Behavior
Bulletin: Youth Development Series, January 2000. Presents findings from the Rochester Youth Development Study and the Pittsburgh Youth Study on risk factors for teenage paternity, specifically the role of delinquency in early fatherhood. 8 pages. NCJ 178899.
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Truancy: First Step to a Lifetime of Problems
Bulletin: Youth out of the Education Mainstream Series, October 1996. Describes seven promising community programs that are reducing truancy and juvenile delinquency by enlisting and coordinating a broad array of local resources. 8 pages. NCJ 161958.
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