Academic journal article Journal of Juvenile Justice

Predicting Recidivism among Juvenile Delinquents: Comparison of Risk Factors for Male and Female Offenders

Academic journal article Journal of Juvenile Justice

Predicting Recidivism among Juvenile Delinquents: Comparison of Risk Factors for Male and Female Offenders

Article excerpt


A major concern in the area of juvenile delinquency is the repeated arrest and incarceration of juveniles. Although the actual arrest rate of juveniles has declined over the past decade, recidivism has remained high and stable, with estimates of reoffending among juveniles ranging from 30% to 90% (e.g., McMackin, Tansi, & LaFratta, 2004; Trulson, Marquart, Mullings, & Caeti, 2005; van der Geest, 2008). This concern has led a number of studies to address risk factors related to recidivism among juvenile offenders. For example, in regard to offense patterns, studies consistently report that the earlier juveniles begin to commit crimes, the greater the likelihood that they will continue to reoffend (e.g., Barrett, Katsiyannis, & Zhang, 2010; Cottle, Lee, & Heilbrun, 2001;Trulson et al., 2005). In addition, studies have found that delinquents who commit crimes of greater severity are at an increased risk for reoffending (e.g., Cottle et al., 2001; Dembo et al., 1998; Myner, Santman, Cappelletty, & Perlmutter, 1998).

Researchers have also linked academic achievement with recidivism (e.g., Katsiyannis, Ryan, Zhang, & Spann, 2008). For example, Archwamety and Katsiyannis (2000) studied juvenile delinquents in remedial math and reading groups and found that they were twice as likely to recidivate as those in the control group who were not in need of remedial academic instruction. A literature review by Vacca (2008) that focused on reading achievement and delinquency suggested that recidivism would decrease if more time were spent teaching delinquents to read.

Directly related to academic achievement, a limited number of studies have examined the relationships among delinquency, disability, and recidivism, as there is an overrepresentation of juveniles with such disabilities in the juvenile justice system. In fact, research has suggested that between 30% and 100% of delinquents have a disability as categorized under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (I DEI A) (I DEI A, 2004; Morris & Morris, 2006; Quinn, Rutherford, Leone, Osher, & Poirer, 2005), with delinquents having emotional disabilities (ED) being overrepresented. Some studies specifically examining the relationship between disability and reoffending suggest that juveniles with disabilities may be particularly vulnerable to recidivism (Barrett, et al., 2010; Zhang, Barrett, Katsiyannis, & Yoon, 2011 ; Zhang, Hsu, Katsiyannis, Barrett, & Ju, 2011 ), although research in this area is limited.

Inconsistent findings plague delinquency research, particularly when examining risk factors for recidivism. Qualitatively, a review of the literature shows nearly as many studies supporting various factors as being predictive of recidivism as studies failing to find any relationship. Specifically, although several studies have found academic achievement, disability, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, conduct problems, and offense patterns to be predictive of recidivism, several other studies have not (e.g., Calley, 2012; Cottle et al., 2001; Dembo et al., 1998; Duncan, Kennedy, & Patrick, 1995; Mulder, Vermunt, Brand, Bullens, & Marie, 2012; Myner et al., 1998; Tille & Rose, 2007). These inconsistencies are due, in part, to the various methodologies and samples used in studies, as the majority of studies utilize all-male samples or are limited to groups of juveniles who have committed either relatively minor or relatively severe offenses.

The differing ways in which studies define variables can also affect their results. For example, few studies examine the influence of a specific disability (e.g., emotional disability versus learning disability) on recidivism, instead using a generic category of "special education placement" despite supporting evidence that mental health issues (associated with an emotional disability) may be correlated with recidivism.

The majority of studies also utilize samples of primarily male delinquents, or combine male and female delinquents into one sample, despite available evidence suggesting that male and female adolescents may differ with regard to characteristics of delinquency and risk factors for recidivism (e. …

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