Juvenile offenders are an increasing social problem today. The problem lies within the parental roles, the child, and the flux of the criminal justice system. Many will agree that the system is a broken one in which many juvenile youths are neglected and the cycle remains destructive rather than constructive. The topic we will divulge into will cover juvenile delinquency recidivism rates and the roles that parents can attribute to break the cycle of re-offending violence. Additionally, the many social policies that can adjudicated to stop this social problem.
Juvenile recidivism rates are the number of minors who are convicted of a crime, complete their punishment sanctions and then later on end up convicted for another offense (Schueneman, 2021b). The highest juvenile recidivism rates were 76% within three years and 84% within five years (Schueneman, 2021b). A study by Joseph Doyle, a researcher at the Massachusetts Institute for Technology, found that 40% of juvenile offenders ended up in adult prison for crimes committed by the time they reached the age of 25 (Schueneman, 2021b). Many juvenile offenders are in the child welfare system and show a higher risk of recidivism (Schueneman, 2021b).
The influences that parents can have on juvenile delinquency and recidivism rates is what makes this a social problem, not criminal justice. We learn throughout our schooling as social workers that our behaviors and actions are defined by environmental factors. Parenting is part of our environmental factors and one of the strongest components of success. In fact, children are sponges and learn how to react by watching their parents. Additionally, adolescent neglect, abuse, and household dysfunction increases the likelihood to re-offend (Baglivio et al., 2020).
This literature review will show how some experts analyzed juvenile recidivism rates and their demographics, coupled with promoting juvenile interventions instead of incarceration as a recovery tool. I firmly believe that juvenile offenders would have a lesser recidivism rate if they were to complete a restorative justice program, rather than being incarcerated. Additionally, we will intersect social opinion on whether parenting is a major source of juvenile delinquency.
Evidence about Juvenile Recidivism
According to most recent data, in the United States, approximately four million children were involved in a Child Protection Services investigation (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2019). Currently, juvenile recidivism rates are on a decline. The COVID-19 pandemic likely resulted in this decline. However, over a twelve-year span (2007-2018), males have consistently been overrepresented and females underrepresented (Pennsylvania Juvenile Court Judges’ Commission, 2021). Interestingly enough, males have consistently recidivated at a much high rate than females (Pennsylvania Juvenile Court Judges’ Commission, 2021). Although juvenile recidivism rates are slowly on the decline, it is important to note that it is still happening. It is important that this literature review outline the environmental factors that explains the why, who, and what should we do now. Juveniles in this group are characterized by a young age of many problem behaviors that is related to biological, individual, and environmental factors (Donker, Smeenk, van der Laan, & Verhulst, 2003; Moffitt, 1997; Moffitt, Caspi, Harrington, & Milne, 2022).
It has been found that many roles within the family system have affected juvenile offenders and why their childhood experiences lead to criminal behavior. Family dynamics such as parental offending, mental health problems, and substance abuse as well as domestic violence, separation/divorce, and physical abuse and neglect of the child are risk factors for the victimized child to engage in antisocial and criminal behavior themself (Braungart-Reiker et al., 1995; Cadoret et al., 1995; Widom, 1997). In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have pointed out ten maltreatment exposures that occur prior to the age of eighteen and this allows individuals to come up with an Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) score. The ten exposures include forms of abuse, neglect, and household dysfunction (Wolff et al., 2016).
Neglect, as mentioned above, is a form of abuse. Studies have found that ongoing neglect is a key contributor to high-risk reoffending youths. The Children’s Bureau defines neglect as the failure to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical treatment, or supervision (Children’s Bureau/ACYF/ACF/HHS, 2019). Interestingly, it is suspicious that if neglect is one of the highest key contributors and thus these cases go to the children and youth services, why cases being closed and juvenile crimes remain at a steady level. (Ryan, Williams, & Courtney, 2013) believed that neglect is by far the most frequently allegation by child protections and the most common reason for placement of children.
A key environmental factor for juveniles is their neighborhood. It has been found through various researches and studies that social disorganization that is linked to weaker neighborhood structures can increase juvenile delinquency (Grunwald, et al., 2010; Wilkinson, et al., 2019; Deutsch, et al., 2012). This includes associations with other delinquent peers and interrelates poor parental supervision. Poor parental supervision is a form of neglect, which is categorized as a family factor for this literature review. (Grunwald, Lockwood, Harris, & Mennis, 2010) did a study that included 7,061 delinquent male juveniles that were based in Philadelphia at a community-based program. This specific study (Grunwald, et al., 2010) was based on drug offending juveniles that committed these crimes due to poor neighborhood conditions and low job opportunity. Additionally, they conclude that neighborhood and family interventions should be set in place to reduce juvenile recidivism.
Evidence about Interventions for Juvenile Recidivism Rates
The biggest challenge when it comes to juvenile delinquency is awareness of the social policy issues, promoting resources for the juveniles, and holding parental figures accountable. The relationship between public policy and juvenile offenders is viewed largely as public policy. Studies have shown that public policy has not addressed causes of youth crimes, like poverty and limited educational resources (Jenson et al., 1998).
The Pennsylvania Juvenile Court Judges’ Commission has put together a list of objectives for this population. The main goal of these objectives is to use evidenced-based prevention programs in every community to address problem behaviors. The deliverance of these resources is processed on many levels, such as the county probation departments receiving fact sheets, and many are provided with community map sheets to identify existing services as well as gaps in services (Pennsylvania Juvenile Court Judges’ Commission, 2021). However, the issue with evidenced-based programs is that there is not any concrete evidence on whether evidenced-based programs work. (Mears, Cochran, Greenman, Bhati, & Greenwald, 2011) created a research that concluded that there is not enough evidence in these programs or consistency when sentencing and that further research and policies, coupled with focusing on current efforts, should be examined.
Historically, additional programs have been implemented to decrease juvenile recidivism rates. According to Lawrence T. Parreta, from Long Island University, many studies have found that some of these programs and policies are actually detrimental (Lawrence, 2018, p.137). Programs, such as, “Scared Straight” that are created to deter juvenile delinquents that are at risk. Scared Straight, along with other programs, was designed to allow juveniles to enter into correctional facilities in hopes to deter them from crime or future offending. The Campbell systematic review concluded that the program did more harm than good and the after-math of the study showed it was negative in direction (Petrosino et al., 2013).
Step Up is another program that was created as an intervention model to decrease misbehavior among youth. It is a twenty-one-week program for the ages fourteen through seventeen. The program involved the parents/caretakers and used Cognitive Behavior Therapy models on both parties to gain a better understanding on what was happening on each side (Gilman & Walker, 2020). Eligibility for the program includes, youth is the primary perpetrator of violence in the home; youth is not currently being abused, and was not abused in the past by the parent/caretaker they are currently assaulting; the youth’s violence is not a one-time incident; Youth with mental health issues are receiving treatment, if needed; youth does not have a substance abuse problem; parent/caretaker does not have a current untreated mental health or substance abuse problem; and parent/caretaker is able to attend Step-Up regularly with their youth (Gilman & Walker, 2020). This specific study found that those who participated in the program and had parental involvement, in fact, reduced recidivism.
When you decide to become a parent, you also take on the responsibility of your child. It is a natural instinct to protect your child(ren). This should also apply to children that are struggling with behavioral problems, such as juvenile offenders. It is a popular opinion that the parents of juvenile offenders should hold accountability for the actions of juveniles while under their care. The underlying notion of the criminal justice system for juveniles was that parents of court-involved children were not fulfilling their responsibilities (Tanenhaus, 2011). This began laws and public policies to be enacted to hold parents responsible for their children’s criminal behavior in the U.S. and elsewhere (Arthur, 2009, Brank et al., 2005).
After allocating studies based on environmental factors for juvenile offenders and/or re-offenders, neighborhood and family contexts should be part of any strategy when it comes to reducing recidivism rates (Grunwald, et al., 2010). When it comes to the family environment; consistent supervision, verbal intimidation and the perception of a supportive home environment were some of the largest predictors of recidivism, coupled with academic experiences and peer relationships (Ryan, Williams, & Courtney, 2013). As far as risk factors in future research, it would be interesting to look at differences between subgroups of offenders, on the basis of their offending behavior, low or high IQ, or a combination of both (Mulder et al., 2011).
The need for future research for juvenile offenders must not end. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and high-rise political dramas, these discussions are ever-changing. Reducing juvenile rates is beneficial for the youth, their families, and communities. Additionally, this would lessen the crowding of prisons and juvenile delinquent centers. If we were to take this into a more social work perspective and find the root of the problem, whether it may be starting in the family environment or developing a plan at school, I do believe we could collect further data and conduct various studies in reducing recidivism rates among today’s youth population (Ryan, Williams, & Courtney, 2013). Another social work perspective may be looking into certain therapy techniques. Future research on trauma psychopathic features at a young age and the early warning signs of aggression could be related to a high-risk predictability of antisocial and criminal behavior (Baglivio et al., 2020).
This literature review has reviewed how some experts have analyzed juvenile recidivism rates and their demographics, coupled with promoting juvenile interventions instead of incarceration as a recovery tool. However, the literature review has shown how evidenced-based programs alone were not enough to deter juvenile offenders from recidivism. Parental involvement is a major source of juvenile delinquency and remains the biggest concern for this literature review.
Additional research for juvenile delinquency and decreasing recidivism rates should include ongoing interventions that involve parental responsibility, the juvenile’s home and school environment, and their assessment of high-risk disparities, such as poverty and the lack of educational resources.
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