Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

Predictors of Serious and Violent Offending by Adjudicated Male Adolescents

Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

Predictors of Serious and Violent Offending by Adjudicated Male Adolescents

Article excerpt

This longitudinal study investigated predictors of serious and violent offending by adjudicated male adolescents. Participants were 132 males with a mean age of 13.5 years who had been adjudicated delinquent and evaluated in a secure juvenile justice facility in South Carolina for approximately 30 days. The sample was 60% African American and 40% white. Neither IQ nor MMPI-A scores predicted future serious nonviolent offending. Adolescents who went on to commit nonviolent serious offenses had significantly more prior nonviolent serious and nonserious offenses. MMPI-A scales Hysteria, Anxiety, Anger, Low Self-Esteem, Brooding, Persecutory Ideas and Deficient Inhibition predicted future violent offenses. These results indicate that personality characteristics are strong predictors of violent juvenile offending while past criminal behavior is a better predictor of non-violent juvenile offenses.

The arrest rates for juvenile violent offenses have significantly increased over the past few decades with a 61% increase in arrests for violent offenses between the years 1988 to 1994. Although violent offenders are a relatively small subset of juvenile delinquents, this group accounts for a disproportionate number of offenses (Loeber & Farrington, 1998). Identifying malleable predictors of serious and violent juvenile offending is an important challenge for researchers. Much of the previous research on risk and protective factors is based on delinquency in general rather than specifically on serious and violent offenders. In addition, many of these are retrospective or correlational studies without follow-up information (Loeber & Farrington, 1998).

Several prospective studies have found personality traits predictive of future delinquency. Vitacco, Neumann, Robertson, and Durrant (2002) linked callousness and impulsivity to future delinquency with impulsivity being a prominent predictor. Steiner, Cauffman, and Duxbury (1999) investigated personality traits as predictors of future recidivism with incarcerated male adolescents. The Weinberger Adjustment inventory was used to measure personality traits of distress (anxiety, depression, low sense of well-being, and low self-esteem) and restraint (impulse control, suppression of aggression, responsibility, and consideration) (Weinberger, 1997). They found that 88.9% of adolescents with low levels of restraint and high levels of distress were rearrested during the follow-up. The delinquents with high restraint committed fewer but more serious crimes. Other studies have been conducted to investigate traits of psychopathy as a predictor of juvenile recidivism. Psychopathic individuals reveal shallow emotions, lack of empathy and guilt, and are unable to form strong relationships. Gretton, Hare, & Catchpole (2004), in a 10-year follow-up on 175 adolescent males found high psychopathy scores related to violent offending but not nonviolent offending. Violent offenses include murder, manslaughter, attempted murder, assault, robbery, kidnapping, possession of a weapon, and arson. Nonviolent offenses include theft, possession of stolen property, fraud, breaches of the conditions of probation, escaping custody, driving offenses, and drug offenses.

Christian, Frick, Hill, Tyler, and Frazer (1997) reported that children with callous and unemotional personality traits engage in more acts of violence with more criminal offenses. Other individual predictors of delinquency include pregnancy complications, hyperactivity and concentration problems, aggressiveness, prior incarcerations and age of first arrest (Hawkins, et al., 1998).

Katsiyannis and Archwamety (1997) examined previous records of 147 recidivists and 147 non-recidivists. Their results were consistent with previous research showing that age of first offense played a role in differentiating between recidivists and non-recidivists. Younger age at first arrest also predicted future criminal behavior. …

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