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Arrested Development: Confinement Can Negatively Affect Youth Maturation

NCJ Number
Date Published
December 2013
4 pages
This report presents the findings and methodology of a study that examined how incarceration affects the development of youths' judgment and psychosocial maturity from mid-adolescence into early adulthood.
The study found statistically significant short-term declines in psychosocial maturity for youth incarcerated in a secure facility. Psychosocial maturity includes temperance (the ability to curb impulsive and aggressive behavior); perspective (the ability to view situations from a variety of perspectives, including consideration of others and long-term consequences); and responsibility (the ability to function independently, including personal responsibility and resistance to peer influence). These developmental capabilities were combined to create a measure of "global psychosocial maturity." The research analyzed data from a 7-year, longitudinal study of 1,171 male adolescents (ages 14-25) in two major metropolitan areas. The study participants had been adjudicated of a felony offense, serious property crime, misdemeanor weapons offense, or misdemeanor sexual assault. The proportion of youth with drug-law violations was capped at 15 percent. Two policy implications are drawn from the study findings. First, States should expand the use of effective (evidence-based) community-based services for youth while reducing the use of secure confinement. Second, for youth who require secure confinement for public safety, harsh treatment should be prohibited. Such treatment can make the youth even more dangerous upon release back into the community, because they have been denied the environment and support needed to develop positive attitudes and restraints in interactions with others in a community setting. 4 endnotes