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Risk Factors for Delinquency: An Overview

NCJ Number
Michael Shader
Date Published
January 2003
11 pages
This article presents an overview of risk factors related to juvenile delinquency.
Researchers in the field of juvenile justice have long been interested in understanding the factors that may lead a juvenile to engage in delinquent behavior. Prevention strategies in the field of juvenile justice have recently adopted a public health approach to combating delinquency, targeting risk factors for delinquency. The article defines risk factors and examines some of the major risk factors linked to juvenile delinquency and violence. Risk factors are defined as characteristics or variables that, if present in any given youth, increase the chance that they will engage in delinquent behavior. Risk factors for delinquency fall into three broad categories: individual, social, and community. Individual factors include psychological, behavioral, and mental characteristics; social factors include family and peer influences; and community factors include school and neighborhood characteristics. By studying these risk factors, researchers and practitioners are able to enhance prevention programs by targeting the very factors or characteristics that are known to lead to delinquency. This public health strategy offers a promising approach to the prevention of juvenile delinquency in at-risk youth. References