Reducing Juvenile Delinquency and Adult Offending through Childood Intervention of Early High-Risk Factors
Mandatory interventions such as education and extended support should be implemented for both children and parents in regard to identifying and erasing early and high-risk factors in adolescents to diminish the increased probability for juvenile delinquency and later adult offending. Certain risk factors that are predisposed to aggressive, destructive and impulsive behaviour and have positive association with delinquency are preventable and manageable, such factors being pre- and peri-natal negligence, child maltreatment and abuse, socialisation and excessive drug and substance use. Intervention models must take into consideration the comprehensive field that envelops each of the psychological evidence-based risk factors when developing policies to abase said outcome. The process of intervening would be a multitude of different policies to target each of the risk sectors such as: education-based classes in primary and secondary schools, home visits for expecting and present families as well as general awareness campaigns to help achieve more widely spread information.
Research & Interventions
Pre- and peri-natal negligence. A plethora of evidence suggests that substance use whilst pregnant creates serious implications(Rantakallio, 1992 and Kaker, 1996) not only to the fetus’ physical health, but also its brain structure. The nicotine and carbon monoxide fromcigarettes has been found to result in the impairment and reduction of the corpus callosum and the total area of the cerebral cortex region of the brain, (Anblagan, D. et al, 2013) which in turn function for joining the two hemispheres and motor function, language processing, vision, impulse control etc. etc. (Frackowiak, R.S., et al, 2004), among a depletion of serotonin levels (Blood-Seigfried, J. And Rende, E.K., 2010). This teratogen results in the hinderance of brain growth and the eventual lack of academic performance. Hagan, J., and McCarthy (1997) conducted a study through interviews into the correlation of poor performance at school and juvenile delinquency in which they found that adolescents with low literacy skills did in fact participate in delinquencies. Whilst the study used a fairly large and generalisable sample of 254 young people, it also only included participants from impoverished neighbourhoods who were homeless. Maimanee, T.A. and Bangitah, A.H.(2011) investigated the link between low serum serotonin levels and variants of aggressive behaviour. The study was an administered total of 92 prisoners of varying ages and sexes. The researchers collected blood that was centrifuged to identify the serotonin concentrationand then employed the Student’s T Test to compare the means of high and low serotonin level samples with aggressive behaviour to which it was found that participants with diminished elevations in serotonin do exhibit aggressive tendencies.
Child Maltreatment. One of the more expected outcomes of juvenile delinquency stems from parental abuse. It was found that adolescents who were abused in the first 5 years of their life were far more likely to have been arrested for violent and non-violent delinquencies (Lansford, J.E. et al, 2007) The study conducted with 574 children, from each sex with a predominance of Caucasian ethnicity (81%). Whilst the research had a large sample size and made use of separating summary and more serious crimes when administering interviews to the participants, therefore securing a more valid measure, it also made the study subject to criticism by using the participants word as a source of evidence.
Home Visits to pre- and peri- natal women. Direct contact and support for pregnant mothers before and after birth can be an effective way of increasing child development and health. Schwartz et al (2011) explored the effect of nurses’ home visits to unmarried womenliving in socioeconomically low areas before and after their pregnancy and the longitudinal outcome of the child’s emotional and behavioural progress and crime involvement. The result of the study was that the mothers in which were helped had increased pre-natal health, fewer childhood injuries, school readiness, child abuse and a reduction in criminality and substance misuse. The study used a widely generalisable sample of 2274 participants spread over 3 different U.S states and 30 years of ongoing engagement.
Substance Abuse. A profusion of evidence shows that substance use has been analogised to adolescent criminality (Huisinga, Loeber, & Thornberry, 1994 , Robas-Señol, M., et al,2015) which is prevalent in the Hunter, S.B et al (2014) study measuring the link with alcohol, marijuana and delinquency. They found that adolescent first-time alcohol users and heavy alcohol abusers are more prone to engage in juvenile criminal activities, whereas marijuana had little to no evidence in regard to adolescent criminality. The study ensured a more accurate reading by elucidating the fact to the participants in that their answer regarding crimes committed would not be forwarded onto the authorities when conducting the surveys, as well as completing a further 2 follows up surveys and compensating those involved. However, it was found that self-report studies have been subjected to exaggeration and bias (Chan, 2008). The surveys were also administered in-between The Teen Court program in which the adolescents are required to be interviewed with their guardians and then a court hearing in front of a peer jury. This method may alter results as the participant would likely be tense during the process.
Education in Schools. Education in schools has been the main form of implementing information for centuries. By bringing in a more extensive drug awareness class, we can expect better outcomes for future substance use among adolescents. Latchem, B. (2001) studied the effectiveness of drug education programs within primary schools. The study was conducted over a 3 year long period in which 185 children, over each class group, was taught about drug use and the effects. Interviews, pupil questionaires, classroom observations, group interviews, attitude surveys and draw and write activities were a range of study techniques to measure their retention of information and their personal stance on narcotics. It was found be successful through the study as well as the opinions of pupils and teachers. Whilst the study retained the research through a fairly long period of time, used a broad variety of research techniques and implemented the hypothesis within their intended social group which producea valid method of conduct. The study, nonetheless, is subjected to criticism as “children willanswer questions in the way they perceive to be the right way, that is, the way to satisfy thequestioner.” (Williams et al, 1989, p.91) which can bring attention to the case that the pursuit of connecting demographics from adolescent responses and their outside conduct may not systematic.
Socialisation and learned behaviours. A largest aspect of child mental development is socialisation, in which it has been hypothesised that children learn prosocial and antisocial behaviours from others, which has not been accounted for in many studies researching risk factors for juvenile delinquency. This social risk factor was investigated by Farrington and Hawkins (1991) through a prospective longitudinal survey accumulated with 441 males between the ages of 10–20 in the attempt to understand what variables are present in early and later offending. They found that one predictor was antisocial tendencies associated within earlier years through other antisocial beings. This study continued research over a long period of time which would make for better validity, alongside a sizeable and generalisable study sample. However, the study was conducted through interviews, in relation to the aforementioned point, large abundances of research show that exaggeration tends to be present in self-reports.
Parental education and home visits. To regain control over antisocial behaviour at its roots and furthermore prevent delinquency and criminal activity, a more hands-on approach would be welcomed. Farrington & Walsh (2006) investigated the success rate of intervention based on educating parents through structure and discipline. Through the family-based intervention, control and experimental groups were set up in which there was a significant decrease in the experimental group of 35% for later offending and antisocial behaviours, confidently concluding that family-based methodology is an effective preventative tactic. The study, however, only include a proxy sample size of 22 evaluations, hence making the study ungeneralisable.
As for all policy recommendations, interventions have limitations in which they can proceed. In terms of home visits to pre- and peri- natal women, the intervention has many successful outcomes in which juvenile delinquency has been proven to decrease through extended support of health departments. However, to do this on a larger scale i.e England and Wales, it would put a strain on man power, would not be budget friendly for the NHS and in order for the program to be effective, willingness of participants would be a must. Through the implementation of drug and substance education, again, it would be expensive and difficult to add more content onto the already extensive timetable that adolescents are expected to fulfil. Administering home visits to execute parental education in the attempt to reduce juvenile and adult offending would lack in time and money efficiency. Each of the variable interventions will be arduous and demanding because of the lack of general knowledge concerning preventable risk factors that are empirical within young children and adolescents, as it is to the layman that juvenile offending stem from a lack of morale, poor parenting techniques and too much free time (Unicef, 2010) and so, the it would be demanding to gain the participation and will of the public. Each of the risk factors in this paper have very strong links to later criminality and so, the implications must be worked around if society wants to benefit from a decrease in crime trajectories, which would in turn, cost the government less money from incarceration of offenders, which is currently costing an average of £2,753,747,261 (Ministry of Justice, 2016), hence why childhood interventions must be taken forward for a decrease in crime and taxpayers money and an increase in a safer environment.