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How Many Offenses are Really Committed per Juvenile Court Offender?

NCJ Number
Victims & Offenders Volume: 2 Issue: 3 Dated: July 2007 Pages: 227-249
David P. Farrington; Darrick Jolliffe; Rolf Loeber; D. Lynn Homish
Date Published
July 2007
23 pages
This article compared self-reported offending and court records against formal petitions in juvenile court.
This article compares juvenile court petitions and self-reported offending between ages 13 and 17 for 506 boys followed up in the Pittsburgh Youth Study. There were 2.4 self-reported offenders for every petitioned offender, and 80 self-reported offenses for every petitioned offense. The prevalence of self-reported offenders stayed constant with age, but the prevalence of petitioned offenders increased with age. Conversely, the individual offending frequency stayed constant with age according to court petitions but increased with age according to self-reports. Therefore, prevalence and frequency did not vary similarly with age, and did not vary similarly in self-reports and court records. With increasing age, more and more of the self-reported offenders were formally petitioned, but they were formally petitioned for fewer and fewer of their offenses. The probability of an offender being petitioned to court increased with the number of offenses that he committed, but the probability of each offense leading to a court petition decreased with the number of offenses committed. There was little overlap between self-reported and official chronic offenders. It is concluded that researchers should always measure both self-reports and official records in studying offending, and that the juvenile court should seek to intervene earlier in delinquency careers. (Published Abstract)