Jennifer L. Woolard
Some form of delinquency is a normative part of adolescence for a majority of teens, yet the consequences of risky behavior and juvenile justice involvement can be severe. This article focuses on important aspects of adolescent delinquency and justice processing. It examines the cognitive factors which develop during adolescence, which illustrate that adolescents appear to perform comparably to adults by about the age of sixteen. Following this, it examines psychosocial factors of susceptibility to peer influence and future orientation and their continued development in the adolescent period. It also reviews the developing challenge of regulating emotions and affective responses that continues well into young adulthood. Finally, placing adolescents in their ecological context, it makes an attempt to describe how unique relationships between adolescents, parents, and the state present challenges for adolescents that no other age group faces in the legal system.
Competence and Criminal Responsibility in Adolescent Defendants: The Roles of Mental Illness and Adolescent Development
Jodi Viljoen, Erika Penner, and Ronald Roesch
The law has required that adult defendants cannot be tried unless they have an ability to understand and participate adequately in legal proceedings against them. Another legal protection for mentally ill defendants is insanity defense or criminal responsibility laws. Historically these legal protections were not applied to adolescents tried in juvenile court. The purpose of this article is to examine the application of competence and criminal responsibility laws to adolescents, with a focus on some of the challenges that have arisen. It discusses relevant legal standards and the role of mental illness and developmental immaturity and highlights the implications for courts, attorneys, and mental health clinicians. At the present time, many issues pertaining to potentially incompetent and not guilty by reason of insanity adolescents remain undecided. There is a need for further research on the characteristics and needs of these adolescents and appropriate assessment and treatment approaches.
Tamara M. Haegerich and Patrick H. Tolan
Youth who engage in delinquent acts are often more troubled than even their most antisocial behavior suggests. Much criminal behavior can be attributed to a child psychiatric disorder. Mental disorders are often seen in delinquent youth, and this relationship is known as comorbidity. Comorbid disorders may be different manifestations of the same disorder. This article reviews the existing evidence of comorbidity of delinquency with common disorders, the delinquent youth suffer from, including substance abuse and substance dependence, depression, etc. Methodological difficulties in assessing the comorbidity of delinquency and other disorders challenge the understanding of the issue and these are highlighted. It then discusses implications and new directions for research. Finally, it describes implications for juvenile justice policy, emphasizing the responsibility of the justice system for identifying and treating delinquent youth with comorbid disorders.
Ronald L. Simons, Leslie Gordon Simons, and Donna Hancock
There is compelling evidence that childhood conduct problems are a strong predictor of subsequent involvement in antisocial behavior. This article explores recent findings, issues, and controversies regarding the role of parenting in the development of youth and adolescent behavior problems. It focuses on two issues, which are, the dimensions of parenting that foster antisocial behavior and the mechanisms whereby these practices produce this effect. It begins by examining the extent to which studies support the contentions of popular theories regarding the parental behaviors that lead to delinquency and the mediating psychological changes in the child that account for this effect. Following this, it links family structure and delinquency to consider the impact of family structure on child and adolescent delinquency. Finally, it examines behavioral genetics research and provides a brief review of behavioral and molecular genetics studies relating to the issue of parenting and delinquency.
Personal Characteristics of Delinquents: Neurobiology, Genetic Predispositions, Individual Psychosocial Attributes
Melissa Peskin, Andrea L. Glenn, Yu Gao, Jianghong Liu, Robert A. Schug, Yaling Yang, and Adrian Raine
This article reviews research on the personal characteristics of youth that predispose to crime, focusing on the biosocial origins of antisocial behavior. A significant empirical base suggests that certain biological characteristics interact with environmental risk factors to produce higher rates of delinquency. This theme is explored in reviewing research within the domains of genetics, neuroimaging, neurology, neuropsychology, psychophysiology, endocrinology, and early health risks. Efforts have been made to integrate biosocial findings into prevention programs. Although the juvenile justice system may not be in a position to alter biological risk factors, family courts that hear cases of child abuse and neglect may be able to mitigate psychosocial risk factors by mandating therapies for youth and parenting classes for caretakers. Intervention and prevention efforts that utilize this approach represent promising avenues for the future treatment and prevention of criminal and delinquent behavior.
David P. Farrington
The most basic definition of violence is behavior that is intended to cause, and that actually does cause, physical or psychological injury. This article reviews what is known about childhood predictors of youthful violent offending. It focuses on knowledge gained in studies of individual offenders. It begins by reviewing the development of violent offending, including prevalence at different ages, continuity, and specialization or versatility in offending. Following this, the article reviews knowledge about major individual, family, and socioeconomic risk factors. It also investigates how accurately violent offenders can be predicted in childhood. It focuses on knowledge gained in major prospective longitudinal studies of offending, discussing risk and protective factors. These results are likely to be useful in developing risk assessment instruments. Finally, the article discusses the major policy implications and calls for early prevention instead of later treatment in the juvenile and criminal justice system.
This article explores questions regarding the social side of delinquent behavior. It begins with discussing crime as a group behavior, suggesting that, as social beings, humans sometimes indulge illegal or unacceptable behavior when others are present that they would never contemplate doing alone. Following this, it reviews some evidence on the social nature of crime and delinquency. Although delinquent behavior is predominantly group behavior, some offenses are more likely to be committed in groups than others. It suggests that the motivation to engage in delinquency ordinarily arises after a group assembles and as a consequence of group interaction and then discusses the implications of sociality, focusing on peer influence and some ecological theories. The search for the social aspects of delinquency remains one of the most vital areas of research in contemporary criminology.
John H. Laub and Sarah L. Boonstoppel
This article reviews the current state of knowledge and perspectives on desistance from juvenile offending. It begins by locating juvenile delinquency and desistance within the context of adolescent development and then describes the conceptual and methodological challenges of studying desistance from juvenile offending. There is a small but growing body of research focusing on desistance during adolescence. The review of literature reflects that rather than pathological or abnormal behavior, delinquency is a normative aspect of adolescent development. Finally, the article highlights some of the gaps in both theory and research on desistance during adolescence, and offers suggestions for how juvenile justice policy might benefit from desistance research. What is required is to think of ways to restructure people's response to juvenile delinquency, especially by the formal system of justice, in order to allow for the possibility of desistance from crime and other behavioral change to take effect.