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Arrested Development: Does the Grade Level at Which Juveniles Experience Arrest Matter

NCJ Number
Journal of Developmental and Life-Course Criminology Volume: 1 Issue: 4 Dated: 2015 Pages: 411-433
Stephanie A. Wiley
Date Published
23 pages
This study examined the effect of arrest on delinquency at a salient transition during adolescence, i.e., the move from middle to high school.

The study focused on the effects of arrest on delinquency via deviant attitudes, attenuation of prosocial bonds, and involvement with deviant groups, in order to determine whether labeling processes and consequences varied for youth in 7th, 8th, or 9th grade. Longitudinal data from a school-based survey were used to estimate the direct and indirect effects of arrest on delinquency for youth in 7th, 8th, and 9th grades. Wald tests were used to determine whether there were significant differences across cohorts. Although arrest was associated with increased delinquency for all three grade cohorts, effects were most detrimental for 7th graders. For these youth, arrest exerted a significant, direct effect across all intermediate outcomes and accounted for increased delinquency via neutralizations, weak school commitment, delinquent peers, and negative peer commitment. Although some of these mediators explain increases in delinquency among 8th and 9th graders, effects were smaller in magnitude. In total, arrest was associated with a 132-percent increase in delinquency among 7th graders, but only a 55-percent increase among 9th graders. The study recommends that the unintended consequences of arrest should be carefully consideredparticularly for younger youth, since arrest is linked to deviant attitudes and commitment to and involvement with delinquent peers. Interventions should be coupled with efforts to improve prosocial attitudes and relations to prevent future delinquency. Although the effects of arrest wane over time, they do not disappear, and youth continue to experience consequences associated with arrest after they transition to high school. 2 tables, 1 figure, and 81 references (publisher abstract modified)