Risk and Protective Factors among Youth Offenders
Carr, Mary B., Vandiver, Trish A., Adolescence
This exploratory study examined the risk and protective factors of youth offenders and their relation to recidivism. The sample consisted of 76 male and female juvenile probationers within a large metropolitan area. Archival records on probationers provided data on prior offenses, personal characteristics, familial conditions, drug use, peer selection, school performance, role models, and activities and hobbies. It was found that protective factors, specifically personal characteristics, familial conditions, and peer selection, differentiated nonrepeat offenders and repeat offenders. The present body of findings supports the adaptive model of resiliency and reinforces the importance of enhancing protective factors in youth offenders as a means of deterring delinquent behavior.
Through the lens of risk, researchers have viewed the youth offender as one who is living in poverty while being deficient in confidence, social relationships, academic abilities, and parental support (Lerner & Galambos, 1998). Volumes of theoretical and empirical research have been devoted to causal explanations of delinquent behavior, and to the identification of risk factors and stressors that characterize the young criminal offender. Risk factors are those conditions that are associated with a higher likelihood of negative outcomes, such as engaging in problem behavior, dropping out of school, and having trouble with the law (Jessor, Van Den Bos, Vanderryn, Costa & Turbin, 1995). Risk factors include poor self-concept, low self-esteem (Brook, Whiteman, Balka, & Cohen, 1997; Lerner & Galambos, 1998; Werner, 1993), interpersonal inadequacy (Brook et al., 1997), poor expectations for education (Brook et al., 1997; Lerner & Galambos, 1998), trouble-some attitude (Corbett & Petersilia, 1994), poor parenting st yles (Lerner & Galambos, 1998), low family cohesion (Blaske, Borduin, Henggeler & Mann, 1989; Corbett & Petersilia, 1994; Davidson, Redner, Blakely, Mitchell, & Emshoff, 1987), relationships with peers who engage in risk behaviors (Blaske et al., 1989; Lerner & Galambos, 1998), large number of siblings within the household (Corbett & Petersilia, 1994), drug use (Brook et al., 1997; Lerner & Galambos, 1998), poor academic performance, poor school attendance, and continued involvement in risk behavior (Lerner & Galambos, 1998).
A review of the literature reveals that specific stressful events and ongoing stressful life conditions (termed stressors) have also been associated with adverse developmental outcomes, including delinquent behavior in adolescence (Cowen & Work, 1988; Cowen, Wyman, Work, & Iker, 1995; Fergusson & Lynskey, 1996; Rutter, 1985; Wertlieb, Weigel, & Feldstein, 1987; Work, Cowen, Parker, & Wyman, 1990). Stressors include poverty, familial separation, parental psychopathology, parental alcoholism, prenatal stress, abuse, and maltreatment (Cowen & Work, 1988; Masten, Garmezy, Tellegen, Pellegrini, Larkin, & Larsen, 1988; Werner, 1986; Werner, 1989). Adolescents who experience stressors are considered at risk, according to the risk perspective.
The risk perspective depicts the youth offender on a trajectory of criminality, addiction, and dependency. Although repeated delinquency can lead to career paths in criminal activity in later adolescence and adulthood, not all of those who are exposed to stressors continue to commit criminal acts. Many individuals raised in adverse circumstances, with early criminal records, have transcended the limitations of their environment and have developed into productive, well-adjusted adults (Jessor, 1993; Lerner & Galambos, 1998; Werner, 1993). Thus, an alternative model can be constructed: one that emphasizes the strengths and assets of youth offenders, and turns its attention to those adolescents who have desisted from delinquent involvement. In contrast to the risk perspective, an adaptive model would emphasize the factors and processes that safeguard youth from adverse outcomes. Such a model would focus on protective factors.
Early studies on resilience and developmental psychopathology by Cowen and Work (1988), Rutter (1985), and Werner (1989) identified protective factors, analogous to stress shields, that protect high-risk children from negative outcomes. In these studies, resilient children (defined as those who demonstrate successful adaptation following exposure to stressors) showed good adaptation in terms of school-based competencies such as conduct, sociability, and academic achievement.
Thus, by focusing on competence and wellness, rather than maladjustment, resiliency investigators have identified protective factors in resilient children that buffer risk factors, decrease the likelihood of engaging in problem behaviors, and often promote successful adolescent development. Protective factors can be categorized within the following framework: personal, familial, and environmental.
A wide range of personal factors have been found to protect adolescents from negative outcomes. In the Rochester Child Resilience Project, it was found that self-efficacy differentiated stress-resilient children from stress-affected children (Work et al., 1990). Stress-resilient children also perceived themselves as having a stronger sense of self-worth and higher self-esteem than did stress-affected children (Parker, Cowen, Work, & Wyman, 1990). Similarly, Werner (1989) found a significant difference in self-esteem in resilient youth of alcoholic parents, compared with those youth who had developed serious coping problems. Werner's (1989, 1993) longitudinal research provided evidence of protective factors throughout the lives of resilient children. Resilient children had positive temperamental characteristics as infants, sought out novel experiences as toddlers, advanced in communication in elementary school, and had nurturant, responsible, and achievement-oriented attitudes in adolescence. Parker et al. (19 90) found that stress-resilient children endorsed effective interpersonal problem-solving skills, as well as demonstrated self-reliance and support-seeking behavior. Another factor found to buffer risk is social bonding within the school context. Researchers have reported that having a strong sense of community within the school is associated with fewer behavioral problems (Battistich, Schaps, Watson, & Solomon, 1996; Battistich & Hom, 1997).
Researchers have also identified familial factors that contribute to resiliency in high-risk children and youth. One such factor is the nature of the parent/child relationship. For example, researchers have reported that family cohesion and good communication with parents is strongly associated with good adaptation in young adolescents (Grossman, Beinashowitz, Anderson, Sakurai, Finnin, & Flaherty, …
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: Risk and Protective Factors among Youth Offenders. Contributors: Carr, Mary B. - Author, Vandiver, Trish A. - Author. Journal title: Adolescence. Volume: 36. Issue: 143 Publication date: Fall 2001. Page number: 409+. © 1999 Libra Publishers, Inc. COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group.
This material is protected by copyright and, with the exception of fair use, may not be further copied, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means.