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Beyond Detention: A 12-Year Longitudinal Study of Positive Outcomes in Delinquent Youth

NCJ Number
JAMA Pediatrics Volume: 171 Issue: 2 Dated: February 2017 Pages: 123-132
Date Published
February 2017
10 pages
This longitudinal study examined eight positive outcomes among delinquent youth at 5 and 12 years after detention, focusing on sex and racial/ethnic differences.
This Northwestern Juvenile Project was the first comprehensive longitudinal study of long-term outcomes of delinquent youth after detention (n=1,829). Youth were interviewed in detention and re-interviewed up to nine times over 12 years. The stratified random sample consisted of 1,172 males and 657 females, 1,005 African-Americans, 524 Hispanics, 296 non-Hispanic Whites, and 4 of other race/ethnicity. Achievement of positive outcomes pertained to educational attainment, residential independence, gainful activity, desistance from crime, mental health, abstaining from substance abuse, interpersonal functioning, and parenting responsibility. Outcomes were assessed with widely used measures supplemented by correctional records. The study found that females were significantly more likely than males to achieve most positive outcomes. Twelve years after detention, only 21.9 percent of males and 54.7 percent of females had achieved more than half of the measured outcomes. As youth aged, the number of positive outcomes increased modestly. Among males, non-Hispanic Whites were significantly more likely to achieve most positive outcomes compared with minorities; however, they were less likely than females and other races to abstain from substance abuse. African-American males fared the worst, being the most likely to be involved in incarceration, criminal activity, and few positive outcomes in other areas. The study concludes that detention is the outcome of multiple risk factors and developmental processes; however, it could not determine that detention caused poor outcomes independent of those risk factors. The researchers advise that programs for delinquent youth are most effective when they implement services flexibly, based on individual need and developmental stage. 3 figures, 2 tables, and 60 references