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.
Melissa Peskin, Yu Gao, Andrea L. Glenn, Anna Rudo-Hutt, Yaling Yang, and Adrian Raine
Numerous studies carried out over the past two decades suggest that several biological risk factors significantly increase the likelihood for people to commit crime and violence across the lifespan. Researchers trying to understand the relationship between biology and crime have focused on criminal offenders, individuals who display high rates of violent or aggressive behaviors, and those with psychiatric disorders with a strong correlation to criminal behavior, such as psychopathy and antisocial personality disorder. This article summarizes research findings linking neurobiological risk factors with a predisposition to crime, focusing on six domains: genetics, neuroimaging, neuropsychology, psychophysiology, endocrinology and neurotransmitters, and early health risks.
Christopher J. Sullivan
Over the past twenty years, the developmental, life-course framework has emerged as an important means of understanding crime and delinquency. A number of studies tend to focus more on factors that contribute to onset and continuance of criminal careers than their stoppage. Some argue that criminology has fixated too much on trying to elucidate longitudinal offending patterns as series of preordained events playing out over time based on exogenous individual differences. Research has identified a good deal of stability in antisocial behavior and its underlying causes across portions of offenders' lives, along with a fair degree of within-individual change. In 2001, John H. Laub and Robert J. Sampson suggested that desistance, the primary indicator of change in criminal behavior, is the modal pattern in individual offending careers. That observation has become the basis for an empirical benchmark used to evaluate theoretical explanations for offending over the life course. This article highlights ways that developmental, life-course criminologists might enhance their understanding of change.
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.
Francis T. Cullen, Michael L. Benson, and Matthew D. Makarios
Most of the traditional theories of crime only focused on one stage in life, namely the teenage years, because criminologists believed that adolescence was the period when participation in illegal activities increased. This resulted in a wide range of “theories of delinquency” in criminology. This article studies several developmental and life-course theories that help in understanding crime across the lives of people. One of these is Michael Gottfredson and Travis Hirschi's claim that steady criminal behavior across life is caused by low self-control, a characteristic that was established during childhood. Another is the perspective, labeling theory, which warns that efforts to prevent people from offending can lead to an increase in criminality.
Deborah Gorman-Smith and Alana M. Vivolo
This article discusses female delinquency and offending. It reviews some related literature in order to update the prevention efforts. The first section presents data on the rates and patterns of offending among girls and shows how these have developed over the years. It then studies the predictors and correlates of involvement among females that should be considered whenever prevention programs are developed and implemented. This article also tries to determine if interventions for girls have had any program impact and if there is any difference on the impact between interventions directed towards girls and boys.
Patrick Lussier and Arjan A. J. Blokland
This essay examines theoretical, methodological, and empirical knowledge about the activation, course, and desistance from sex offending. The authors discuss theoretical issues and controversies regarding the origins and development and sex offending. Methodological issues in the measurement of sex offending and sex offending careers are reviewed, and an organizing conceptual criminal career framework is proposed to study sex offending. The current state of knowledge is presented regarding the criminal careers of juvenile sex offenders and associated developmental correlates, as well as the criminal careers of adult sex offenders and associated developmental correlates. A comparative analysis is provided of juvenile and adult sex offending careers and the respective correlates, noting developmental similarities and differences. Finally, a developmentally informed integrated model of sex offending is presented to stimulate research and policy discussion regarding the prevention of sexual violence and abuse.
Michael A. Russell, Summer J. Robins, and Candice L. Odgers
How does the onset, course, and development of antisocial behavior from childhood to adulthood differ between males and females? This essay reviews and synthesizes evidence from numerous developmentally informative studies. Taken together, these studies suggest that (a) males engage in more frequent, diverse, and severe antisocial behavior across all ages; (b) sex differences in both social (parental socialization, monitoring, peer disapproval of aggression) and neurodevelopmental factors (impulse control, emotion regulation, and perspective-taking abilities) appear to play a role in fostering these sex differences in antisocial behavior; and (c) although fewer females engage in antisocial behavior, females’ antisocial trajectories appear to be more similar to males’ than they are different. The essay concludes by summarizing these findings and highlighting important areas for future research.
Ross Macmillan and Bill McCarthy
This essay outlines theory and research on the life course context of gender and offending. A life course perspective emphasizes social mechanisms that produce continuity of problem behavior over time and mechanisms in later life that produce change in criminal offending. The key issues raised by the life course perspective also animate questions about gender, particularly its role in shaping or contextualizing family interactions, role transitions, and social connections that give rise to patterns of deviance over time. Specific issues examined include gender and offending within sociohistorical contexts and arguments over “crime and gender equality,” life stage variation in gender differences in antisocial behavior, the age distribution of crime and trajectories of offending and their implications, and the social and psychological mechanisms that produce continuities and discontinuities in offending over the life span. The essay concludes with a discussion of gaps in the current literature and directions for future research.