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Risk and Protective Trajectories, Community Context, and Juvenile Recidivism

NCJ Number
Kevin T. Wolff; Michael T. Baglivio
Date Published
86 pages

This research report fills information gaps on the different trajectories in risk and protective factors among youth, during their time on community-based supervision, while simultaneously considering the community context of the area in which those youth reside; it discusses dynamic risk, limitations on prior work assessing dynamic changes, contextual effects and juvenile offending/recidivism, and the current research study’s methodology, measures and indicators, the researchers’ analytic approach, results, and two appendices.


This document describes a research study that had four specific aims: to empirically identify the distinct trajectories in dynamic risk and protective factors among youth under community-based juvenile justice dispositions; to assess the relationship between community contextual measures/individual factors and trajectory group membership; to assess whether different patterns in risk/need over time in the trajectory group is associated with new offending during and post-completion of community-based placements; and to examine trajectories in risk across multiple domains, i.e., dual trajectories, in order to assess whether changes in one risk factor are associated with changes in others. After performing a review of existing literature, the authors state that the majority of prior work either examined changes in risk among adults with justice system involvement or changes in juvenile risk/needs during long-term juvenile justice placement, and that very little is known about whether or to what extent risk and needs change over time among youth in juvenile justice supervision within the community. The research being reported in this document, examines those trajectories of risk and protective factors throughout probation supervision, whether such trajectories affect the likelihood of recidivism, and how community context influences those relationships. The authors conclude that youth’s dynamic risk relative to their peers remained stable; those starting at lower or higher risk stayed that way throughout. However, the authors state that youth are on distinct trajectories of dynamic risk, and under 15 percent of youth do show change over time in terms of increasing or decreasing in risk during placement; they also state that measuring changes in dynamic risk by considering both risk and protective factors or strengths in tandem remains an important part of assessing treatment progress over time.