Do Juvenile Delinquency Diversion Programs Work

Prior to starting this discussion, please read Chapters 6 and 7 in your textbook, watch the Columbine: Understanding Why video, and read the Dylan Klebold’s Diversion Documents and Eric Harris’s Diversion Documents  juvenile diversion program papers.

juvenile diversion program papers.

Your initial post should be at least 250 words in length. Please elaborate on the following:

  • Your textbook covers primary and secondary types of juvenile delinquency diversion programs. Briefly examine each type, and provide an example of each.
  • Klebold and Harris had contact with the criminal justice system prior to the Columbine shooting. Based on your textbook readings on theories of aggression, evaluate what, if anything, you saw in the video and/or read in the diversion papers that may have provided a clue as to the boys’ later aggressive and violent behavior.
  • In your opinion, supported by scholarly or credible sources, explain if there was anything the juvenile justice system missed or could have done better that may have prevented the Columbine massacre from happening. Keep in mind that there are not always clear warning signs and not all tragedies are preventable. However, evaluate what insight, if any, was gleaned from the Columbine tragedy about the nature of aggression and delinquent behavior.


    6Aggression and Violence

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    Learning Outcomes

    After reading this chapter, you should be able to

    • Define the concept of aggression.

    • Evaluate behavior to determine if it meets the criteria for aggression.

    • Identify the various categories of aggression.

    • Distinguish between biological and evolutionary psychological theories of aggression.

    • Examine the role that social learning plays in developing and eliciting aggressive behavior.

    • Analyze the developmental and situational factors that may lead to aggression.

    • Understand the connection between gender and aggression.

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    Section 6.1 Introduction

    Introductory Case Study: Scott Beierle Scott Beierle, a 40-year-old military veteran and former public school teacher living in Florida, lost his job for asking a female student if she was ticklish and then inappropriately touching her. Over the years, he was arrested multiple times for approaching women in public places and groping them. The charges rarely resulted in any meaningful punishment, since victims often did not pursue prosecution.

    Beierle had posted multiple YouTube videos in which he expressed racist and sexist views, includ- ing bitter hatred of women. For example, in one video Beierle stated that “promiscuous women should be crucified” and that minority women, along with those who date minority men, were “disgusting.” In the videos, Beierle also compared himself to mass murderer Elliot Rodger, who killed six people near the University of California at Santa Barbara campus in 2014. It was clear to those who came in contact with Beierle and his videos that he harbored deep anger and resent- ment. However, it was unclear what precipitated these feelings. Then the unthinkable happened.

    On November 2, 2018, Beierle walked into the Hot Yoga Tallahassee yoga studio with a gym bag and a yoga mat, posing as a patron. Just as class was about to begin, Beierle took a handgun out of his bag and opened fire on the other patrons in the studio, killing 21-year-old Maura Binkley and 61-year-old Nancy Van Vessem and wounding five others before turning the gun on himself. Other than Beierle’s arrest history and YouTube videos, there was no other evidence police had that could explain what led to his aggression that resulted in a shocking act of physical violence.

    As you read this chapter, consider the following questions regarding this case:

    1. What about Beierle’s behavior meets the criteria to be labeled aggressive? 2. Which of the categories of aggression does Beierle’s behavior fall under? 3. Which of the theories of aggression help explain Beierle’s behavior? 4. What, if anything, could have been done to prevent Beierle’s behavior?

    6.1 Introduction Researchers are more interested than ever before in examining the factors related to violent and aggressive behavior, due in no small part to the increasing frequency of mass shootings. Identifying the root cause(s) of violence and aggression may help psychologists devise inter- ventions designed to prevent deadly aggression such as mass violence. However, it is impor- tant to understand that examining the problems of aggression and violence has been of great interest to philosophers, psychologists, and criminologists throughout history.

    Philosophers Thomas Hobbes (in the 1500s) and Jean-Jacques Rousseau (in the 1700s) had strong views on aggression and violence. For example, Hobbes believed that aggression was biological. His view was that violence resulted because humans are evil by nature and thus must be controlled by the community to prevent aggressive behavior. Rousseau disagreed. His perspective was that humans learn aggressive behavior by interacting with others. Many early philosophical and psychological perspectives on aggression posit that this type of behav- ior is always violent and thus always criminal. However, research shows this is not the case.

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    Section 6.2 What Is Aggression?

    Throughout the chapter, you will read about various theories of aggression and the support- ing research. You will learn that not all aggression is physical, and it is not always violent. In order to formally study aggressive behavior and violent behavior, psychology researchers have identified categories of aggression that help us make sense of the nature of aggression and violence and of whether the behavior rises to the level of criminality. Keep in mind as you read the chapter that not all aggressive behavior is violent but that all violent behavior is aggressive. Perhaps to aid your understanding of this, the best place to start is with precisely defining the concept of aggression.

    6.2 What Is Aggression? Defining aggression is not as simple and straightforward an undertaking as it may seem. Think about how often the term aggressive is used to describe someone else’s behavior, such as yelling at someone, cutting off other drivers on the roadway, spreading cruel rumors about someone, or punching a wall when angry. These are commonly thought of as clear examples of aggression.

    However, social psychologists Baron and Richardson (1994) define aggression as any form of behavior directed toward the goal of harming another living being who is motivated to avoid being harmed. According to social psychologists, the key elements required to categorize a behavior as aggressive are

    1. there must be an observed behavior, 2. there must be a goal to harm, 3. that harm must be directed at another living being, and 4. that living being must be motivated to avoid the harm.

    These four elements render the act aggressive in nature. When considering this definition, the example of punching a wall when angry would not be considered aggressive because there is a missing element: There is no other living being who is motivated to avoid being harmed.

    According to the definition above, which of these can we classify as aggression?

    • A hitman murders an unfaithful husband for $1,000. • A woman, angry with her supervisor, tells a coworker that the supervisor is cheating

    on her husband with another coworker. • A teenager helps an elderly woman cross the street but accidentally trips the

    woman, who falls and suffers a fractured wrist.

    First, we want to examine if any of these examples has the four elements of behavior, goal to harm, directed at another living being, and another person motivated to avoid the harm. There- fore, if you guessed that the first two are examples of aggression, you are correct. The hitman example clearly contains all four elements, including the key element of intent to cause harm. In the context of the criminal justice system, intent to cause harm is a key element in whether the behavior constitutes a crime or is merely an unfortunate accident. This is discussed in more depth in Chapter 8.

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    Section 6.3 Categories of Aggression

    The second example, in which a woman spreads a malicious rumor about her boss, also con- stitutes aggressive behavior. The woman intended to harm her supervisor, and presumably her supervisor is motivated to avoid such harm. Although the elderly woman in the third example suffered an injury at the hands of the teenager, this is not aggression. The miss- ing element in our definition of aggression in this context is that the teenager’s goal was to help rather than to harm the woman. An accident is not intentional and thus does not con- stitute aggressive behavior. Unintentional harm is not without consequences, but carrying out behavior that is intended to hurt someone is considered much worse than unintentional harm (Ames & Fiske, 2013).

    As you can see, there are a number of behaviors that can be categorized as aggressive when accompanied by the four elements previously described.

    6.3 Categories of Aggression Social psychologists have created categories to describe the various dimensions of aggres- sion. The main categories of aggression are hostile (emotional) aggression, instrumental (cognitive) aggression, physical aggression, and nonphysical aggression (see Figure 6.1).

    Figure 6.1: Categories of aggression

    The main categories of aggression are hostile, instrumental, physical, and nonphysical. Verbal and relational aggression are subtypes of nonphysical aggression.

    Categories of aggression





    Verbal Relational

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    Section 6.3 Categories of Aggression

    Hostile (Emotional) Aggression Hostile aggression can best be thought of as reactive, impulsive, or “hot” aggression that occurs as the result of a real or perceived threat or insult. Hostile aggression is driven by emo- tions, as in the case of Philip Wood.

    In the summer of 2019, Wood, a 50-year-old man, was at a pub in Valley, Alabama, relaxing and enjoying the evening with friends when another bar patron, Sidney Harmon, began to argue with him. Witnesses were not sure what the disagreement was about, but as tempers flared, the incident escalated. Wood then produced a knife and stabbed Harmon to death. Wood immediately ran from the scene; however, there were several eyewitnesses who helped police identify him, and he was later arrested.

    Wood’s aggressive behavior occurred as the result of his anger, and in an impulsive and hos- tile act, he stabbed Harmon. In hostile aggression, the intent to harm arises in response to the current situation. Because the two men were strangers to one another, there was no plan on Wood’s behalf to harm Harmon until they began to argue at the bar.

    Instrumental (Cognitive) Aggression Instrumental aggression is the opposite of hostile aggression such that there is some level of planning that goes into instrumental aggression. It can be thought of as “cool” aggres- sion. Whereas the underlying motivation behind hostile aggression is emotion, instrumental aggression lacks the emotional component and is often used as a means to some end. That is, the goal in instrumental aggression is to harm someone for personal gain. See Case Study: Comparing the Cases of Serina Wolfe and Daniel Rosado to explore different cases in which two people employed instrumental aggression.

    Case Study: Comparing the Cases of Serina Wolfe and Daniel Rosado

    Case One

    In 2019 Serina Wolfe and her boyfriend were living in Clearwater, Florida. Wolfe asked him to buy her a plane ticket to New York so that she could visit with friends and family. Her boy- friend refused to purchase the $300 plane ticket for her. Wolfe was angry with her boyfriend and wanted to get back at him. She hatched a plan to take his credit card without him notic- ing and spend thousands of dollars. Wolfe stole the card, went to a local restaurant, and used her boyfriend’s credit card to leave a $5,000 tip on a $50 restaurant bill. Wolfe was arrested for grand theft after police discovered that she was the one who took the card and made the charge.

    (continued on next page)

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    Instrumental or “cool” aggression involves planning and is focused on personal gain, such as Serina Wolfe stealing her boyfriend’s credit card.

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    Section 6.3 Categories of Aggression

    Physical (Violent) Aggression Physical aggression is perhaps the type of behavior most frequently thought of as aggres- sive in nature. Physical aggression can include hitting, biting, scratching, kicking, stabbing, shooting, punching, or any other physical act that is intended to cause bodily harm to another living being. It is important to note that physical aggression constitutes violent behavior. That is, violence is aggressive behavior that uses physical force intended to cause bodily injury or death. It is also important to point out that physical aggression may seem to be hostile or “hot” aggression. However, as you have learned so far, the intent to harm someone does not always include causing physical harm, and the intent to cause bodily harm can fall under hos- tile aggression or instrumental aggression.

    For example, Philip Wood caused fatal bodily harm to Sidney Harmon when he stabbed Har- mon. That is, Wood used physical (violent) aggression (stabbing) in the heat of a spontaneous argument. This resulted in Harmon’s grave bodily injuries and untimely death. Therefore, Wood engaged in hostile physical aggression.

    Contrarily, Daniel Rosado engaged in instrumental physical aggression when he shot at police and wrestled with a bystander as he attempted to flee the bank. In Rosado’s case, the aggres- sion was part of his plan to elude capture. Both Wood and Rosado used violence to achieve their goals of harming another living being. However, Wood’s violence was motivated by emo- tion in the heat of the moment, whereas Rosado’s was motivated by his plan to obtain the desired cash from the bank even if it meant causing bodily harm to anyone who attempted to thwart him.

    Case Study: Comparing the Cases of Serina Wolfe and Daniel Rosado (continued)

    In Wolfe’s case, she planned how she was going to harm her boyfriend and carried out her plan as a means of punishing him for not buying her the plane ticket. Wolfe’s instrumental aggres- sion led to a being charged with a crime.

    Case Two

    On May 1, 2019, Daniel Rosado went into Middlesex Savings Bank in Massachusetts armed with a gun and a plan to rob the bank. Rosado entered the bank, pulled out his gun, shot into the ceiling, and demanded that the bank teller fill his bag with cash. The robbery was foiled when a bank customer was able to sneak out and flag down a police officer, who exchanged gunfire with Rosado as he fled the scene. Another patron tackled Rosado on the street as he fled, but Rosado was able to slip away. However, Rosado was apprehended in Rhode Island 3 weeks after the attempted bank robbery.

    In Rosado’s case, his intent was to harm any bank staff, customers, or police who got in the way of his attempt to steal the cash that day. Rosado’s aggressive behavior was the means to an end to rob the bank. He planned the attack such that he armed himself, shot the gun into the bank ceiling and at police who tried to stop him, and tussled with a bystander who tackled him to the ground to stop him. Rosado’s acts that day provide a clear example of instrumental aggression.

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    Section 6.3 Categories of Aggression

    Nonphysical Aggression Nonphysical aggression isn’t what we usually think about when we consider aggression, but it can be just as harmful as physical aggression. The two types of nonphysical aggression are verbal and relational.

    Verbal Aggression Verbal aggression is a form of nonphysical aggression that includes shouting, swear- ing, name-calling, or any other nonphysical verbal behavior that is intended to harm another living being when that individual is motivated to avoid being harmed. Ver- bal aggression often accompanies physical aggression; however, there are instances in which the aggressive behavior is limited to words expressed from one individual to another.

    An example of verbal aggression occurred on January 2, 2019, when a woman board- ing a United Airlines flight from Las Vegas, Nevada, to Newark, New Jersey, began hurling insults at the two women she was seated between. The woman began telling the other two passengers that she was feeling “squished” between them but “at least they’ll keep me warm” (as cited in CBS News, 2019). She complained that the two passengers were overweight and that she did not know how she would survive the flight for the next 4 hours. One of the passengers complained to a flight attendant, and other passengers sitting nearby admonished the woman for her behavior. Flight attendants then tried to move the verbally aggressive woman to another seat, but the woman continued to yell insults at the other pas- sengers and again toward the women she was seated between. The woman was ejected from the flight as a result of her behavior.

    It is clear that the verbally aggressive woman intended to hurt the other two passengers with her words, but it is less clear whether this behavior constitutes hostile or instrumental aggression. In order to make this determination, we would need more information about her ultimate motive. If she sat down and became angry upon seeing and feeling limited space at her seat and had no other motive than to shame and embarrass the women, then we can cat- egorize this as hostile aggression. However, if her ultimate goal was to cause such discomfort to the women that one or both asked to be moved to another seat, then the verbally aggressive woman engaged in instrumental aggression. This is because the verbally aggressive words would serve as a means to some other goal besides simply causing harm to the women.

    See Spotlight: Exploring Criminality of Verbal Aggression to explore whether verbal aggression can be considered criminal.

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    Verbal aggression includes shouting, swearing, name-calling, and any other nonphysical verbal behaviors that are intended to harm someone; it can be accompanied by physical aggression.

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    Section 6.3 Categories of Aggression

    Relational (Social) Aggression Another form of nonphysical aggression is relational (social) aggression, which occurs when the desired intent is to harm another’s relationships or social standing. In relational aggression, the behavior does not involve a direct confrontation with the intended target of the harm. It is more covert. Archer and Coyne (2005) identified certain behaviors exhibited in relational aggression, including but not limited to spreading malicious gossip, ostracizing someone from a social group, giving someone the silent treatment, turning people against one another, stealing another’s spouse or partner, and flirting with someone else to incite a jealous response from one’s partner. Relational aggression is more common among females.

    Relational aggression has been studied extensively in schoolchildren, and findings show that the old adage “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me” appears to be incorrect. That is, relational aggression is often considered bullying, especially in social environments in which groups of people gather regularly, such as at school or the workplace. Social psychologists have found that young victims of relational aggression are far more likely to experience negative mental health outcomes. These include depression, anxiety, and even engaging in harmful behaviors, including attempting suicide (see Craig, 1998; Hinduja & Patchin, 2000; Olafson & Viemero, 2000; Paquette & Underwood, 1999; Sharp, 1995). See Case Study: Michelle Carter to read about a recent famous case involving relational aggression.

    In theory, relational aggression could be a form of hostile aggression if, for example, the behavior was impulsive and the only goal of the behavior was to harm the target. However, if the ultimate goal of the behavior is to cause the target harm for some other purpose, such as to raise the aggressor’s social standing, and this behavior was planned, then it can be consid- ered instrumental aggression.

    Spotlight: Exploring Criminality of Verbal Aggression Is verbal aggression considered criminal behavior? While some may believe that verbal aggres- sion cannot ever be labeled criminal due to First Amendment free-speech protections, there are in fact some jurisdictions in which an individual’s specific use of words spoken to another person can be adjudicated criminal behavior. Generally speaking, this falls under malicious harassment criminal codes that include physical aggression as well as verbal aggression. For example, in the state of Washington, individuals convicted of malicious harassment can face up to 5 years in prison and be fined up to $10,000. (Visit the following link for more information regarding the state’s legal code for this specific crime: .aspx?cite=9a.36.080.)

    Visit the following link to read about some situations in which verbal aggression can legally be considered criminal:

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    Section 6.4 Psychological Theories of Aggression

    6.4 Psychological Theories of Aggression Discovering where aggression originates is a topic of great debate among psychologists and other social scientists. Is aggressive behavior learned or inherited? The topic of aggression is another dimension of the nature-versus-nurture debate, and psychologists have developed various theoretical perspectives based on their own area of interest.

    Aggressive behavior is also studied in disciplines outside of psychology, including from a sociological and criminological perspective. However, psychological theories of aggression inform sociological and criminological research on aggression and provide the foundation for understanding related factors. The question at the heart of examining aggression, includ- ing violence, is whether the underlying catalyst is dispositional (biological) or situational (learned). The research on the biological underpinnings of aggression shows that there is some validity to the idea that aggressive behavior is innate. In this section, we explore the major theories of aggression from biological and evolutionary perspectives.

    Case Study: Michelle Carter Teenagers Michelle Carter and Conrad Roy III were in a long-distance relationship for 2 years. Roy lived in a verbally and physically abusive home and had attempted suicide previously. In July 2014 Carter sent Roy a series of text messages over a 2-week period encouraging him to “just do it already.”

    Roy got into his pickup truck, drove to a local empty parking lot, and turned on the generator he brought with him to produce carbon monoxide poisoning. As the truck filled with the poi- sonous gas, Roy got scared and jumped out of the truck. He called Carter, who told him to get back into the truck and do it. Carter never called for help, nor did she admit to anyone that she had spoken to him twice while he was in the midst of carrying out his suicide.

    Carter instead publicly mourned Roy’s death and seemed to revel in the attention she received as the grieving girlfriend. She even comforted Roy’s mother and seemed to enjoy the attention the Roy family gave her for being such a “caring friend” to Conrad. When the text messages were discovered on Roy’s phone, however, police arrested Carter, and she was charged with manslaughter for effectively bullying Roy into suicide.

    There has never been any evidence produced to suggest that Carter was angry with Roy, and because they appeared to get along well with one another, Carter’s behavior does not fall under the category of hostile aggression. This type of relational aggression can be categorized as instrumental aggression. That is, it seems that the text message evidence supports the state’s position that Carter’s goal was to gain attention and sympathy as the grieving girlfriend. The harm Carter caused Roy was a means to an end, with the end being basking in expressions of sympathy from friends, family, and the community.

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    Section 6.4 Psychological Theories of Aggression

    Psychoanalytic/Freudian Theory of Aggression Sigmund Freud created psychoanalysis, and thus this perspective is often referred to as Freud- ian theory (used interchangeably with the phrase psychoanalytic theory). The psychoanalytic view of aggression is that it is biological in nature. That is, Freud’s position was that humans are born with two distinct drives: “life instinct” and “death instinct.” Freud hypothesized that these two drives often compete against one another in our subconscious minds and that aggression occurs as a result of the conflict between the two opposing innate desires to either live or die. Therefore, Freud believed that aggression represents the deflection of the death instinct onto others. It is an interesting idea, but it has not been validated because psycholo- gists have yet to determine a way to verify the existence of an unconscious mind.

    From a criminal behavior perspective, Freud’s colleague Josef Breuer believed that cathar- sis was required to relieve the unconscious internal conflict between the desire to live and

    the desire to die. Catharsis is the process of releasing or purging repressed emotions. For example, a psychologist may advise a cli- ent to find a constructive outlet to release pent-up aggression. This release can occur in a direct manner, or it can be accomplished indirectly by engaging in psychotherapy and/ or enjoyable activities that provide a release of the stress and anxiety that are thought to be triggers to aggression. (Zillmann, Katcher, and Milavsky [1972] found that engaging in physical exercise as a constructive outlet may actually increase aggression in some situ- ations, thereby contradicting the idea that catharsis via physical exercise may be effec- tive at reducing aggression.)

    Frustration–Aggression Hypothesis Dollard, Doob, Miller, Mowrer, and Sears (1939) carried on the psychoanalytic tradition after Freud’s death and asserted that aggression will always occur as a result of experiencing frus- tration. Dollard et al. called this perspective the frustration–aggression hypothesis. Psy- chologists were challenged to provide this hypothesis using the scientific method because there seemed to be a significant level of disagreement among the relevant scientific commu- nity regarding the concepts of frustration and aggression.

    Despite a lack of scientific validity in the frustration–aggression hypothesis, psychologists continued to try to perfect the theory. Berkowitz (1969) later revised the frustration– aggression hypothesis by asserting that although frustration may precede aggression, there are other factors that may also precede aggressive behavior, such as pain, a heightened state of arousal, and more.

    dislentev/iStock/Getty Images Plus

    Pent-up aggression requires some form of release or outlet. A healthy way to release aggression is by practicing a relaxing, enjoyable activity such as yoga at sunset.

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    Section 6.4 Psychological Theories of Aggression

    Excitation Transfer Theory Social psychology researchers have found that arousal can lead to increased aggression as well. For example, Zillmann et al. (1972) examined whether instigating physiological arousal would lead to aggression. The researchers hypothesized that when one individual believes he or she is receiving an electric shock by another and then assigned to engage in either high- or low-intensity exercise, the target would experience a heightened state of physiologi- cal arousal that would later lead to aggression.

    These findings were confirmed in a later study by Zillmann (1988) when he examined whether physiological arousal had the potential to elicit aggression in any context. Zillmann found that even without being instigated, simply exercising would induce a heightened state of physiological arousal that could lead to later aggressive behavior. For example, if a partici- pant engaged in high-intensity exercise and then a short period later was exposed to some minor annoyance that might otherwise be ignored, the heightened physiological arousal from exercising may lead the person (no matter what gender) to behave aggressively toward the source of the annoyance. Zillmann referred to this phenomenon as excitation transfer the- ory, which is the theory that regardless of how physiological arousal is produced, the height- ened state of arousal dissipates slowly, is not situation specific, and thus can generalize to other situations, resulting in aggression.

    For example, imagine a salesperson who goes out for a run prior to work and thus becomes physiologically aroused from the exercise. When she arrives at work, she is called into her manager’s office, where she is asked to work a little harder to increase sales productivity for that month. The salesperson becomes verbally aggressive and lashes out at her manager. This occurs despite the fact that the sales manager typically asks staff to increase productivity to meet certain sales goals. In this case the salesperson’s physiological arousal was still high by the time she arrived at work; this arousal generalized to the sales manager when a simple request was made.

    Evolutionary Theory of Aggression Evolutionary psychologists hypothesize that aggression developed as a means of helping our species survive and thrive; thus, it is biological in nature. Buss and Shackelford (1997) attempted to account for aggression from an evolutionary perspective and identified vari- ous adaptive issues that may explain the historical development of aggressive behavior in humans.

    One issue the researchers proposed was taking others’ resources when resources were scarce. For example, there was a time when humans had to hunt for food in order to survive. Resources may have been limited, leading to competition among other humans; aggression resulted as a means of scaring off or even eliminating competition in order to keep oneself and one’s family nourished. In addition to securing necessary survival resources, aggression was useful to bolster one’s social status by demonstrating strength that was perceived as power.

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    Section 6.5 Learning Theories of Aggression

    Buss and Shackelford (1997) further suggested that aggression may also have evolved as the result of attempting to prevent infidelity, thereby reducing the likelihood that resources may be depleted by unrelated offspring. This particular adaptive problem of raising another’s off- spring has found some support in statistics that suggest that in homes where there is a step- parent, stepchildren are anywhere from 40 to 100 times more likely to be killed or maimed by that stepparent (Daly & Wilson, 2001). This is referred to as the Cinderella effect, based on the fairy tale in which the ugly stepmother treats Cinderella, her stepdaughter, horribly compared to her own daughters. The Cinderella effect is the evolutionary psychology phe- nomenon that posits that the prevalence of child abuse perpetrated by stepparents on their stepchildren is significantly higher than that perpetrated by biological parents on their own children (Daly & Wilson, 2001). This type of aggression may represent criminal behavior, especially if violence (physical aggression) is involved. In fact, Daly and Wilson’s data come from criminal child abuse statistics records in which the injury or death of the child was per- petrated by a stepparent.

    6.5 Learning Theories of Aggression Social psychologists are likely to subscribe to the perspective that aggressive behavior devel- ops through observational learning. That is, people are influenced to behave aggressively because they see others doing so. This section will explore aggression from a social psychol- ogy perspective (e.g., mimicry of behaviors) and also from a behavioral/learning psychology perspective (e.g., behavior reinforcement).

    Social Learning Theory of Aggression According to Albert Bandura (1978), “People are not born with preformed repertoires of aggressive behavior; they must learn them” (p. 14). Recall the discussion in Chapter 4 regard- ing Bandura’s social learning theory. Bandura (1977) coined the term social learning theory to describe his finding that social behavior, including aggression, is learned by observation of others as well as through rewards and punishments. In his model, observational learning, reinforced performance, and structural determinants—such as socioeconomic status, family background, cultural features, and other sociological factors—are the origins of aggression.

    In the early 1960s Bandura conducted a study with the goal of determining the importance of imitation and learned behavior. Specifically, he sought to understand how children would behave after they watched an adult act aggressively toward a Bobo doll. In the famous Bobo doll experiment, Bandura, Ross, and Ross (1961) had a total sample of 72 children (36 boys and 36 girls) ages 3 to 6 years. There were three experimental groups in which 24 children observed an adult model aggressive behavior toward the Bobo doll, 24 observed the adult model nonaggressive behavior, and 24 had no model. The children were then placed in the room with the doll. The findings showed that children tended to mimic the behavior of the model they had observed when the model left the room and they were alone with the Bobo doll. That is, those in the aggressive model condition were significantly more likely to behave aggressively with the doll than those in the no-model and nonaggressive-model groups.

    Interestingly, Bandura et al. (1961) also found that female participants engaged in more physically aggressive play with the doll when their model was male and engaged in more

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    Section 6.5 Learning Theories of Aggression

    verbally aggressive behavior if their model was female. Boys were more likely to imi- tate the model’s physical aggression when their model was male rather than female. That is, both boys and girls were more likely to imitate physical aggression when they observed that behavior modeled by an adult male.

    Moreover, the researchers found that aggressive behavior was reinforced when the aggressor was rewarded for that behav- ior and reduced when the aggressor was punished for such behavior. For example, if the child received accolades for behav- ing aggressively, he or she was likely to behave more aggressively in the future. On the other hand, if the child was admonished and suffered negative consequences for

    behaving aggressively, he or she was likely to behave less aggressively in the future. These findings provide strong empirical support for aggression as a learned set of behaviors.

    Bandura and other social psychologists have tested the validity of social learning theory as it applies to prosocial helping behaviors. That is, social psychologists have found that when the modeled behaviors included helping and kindness, children were likely to model those behaviors (see Bandura, 1977; Rushton, 1980). This is especially true when caretakers rein- force the behavior. For example, if a child shares her lunch with a classmate who forgot his lunchbox that day and the teacher tells her how kind she is to share, that positive reinforce- ment is likely to elicit future prosocial behavior.

    Social Contagion Theory Similar to social learning theory, social contagion theory is a type of social influence that occurs when a modeled behavior spreads from one crowd participant to another after observ- ing the behavior or by media coverage of the behavior. It has traditionally been researched in the context of consumer behavior (Rogers, 1995), rule breaking (Ritter & Holmes, 1969), suicides (Marsden, 1998; Phillips, 1974), criminal behavior (Jones & Jones, 1995), and more recently, mass shootings. That is, social contagion is generally studied in the context of indi- viduals being exposed to certain behaviors and attitudes either directly by firsthand experi- ence or indirectly through stories of these occurrences. Researchers then measure the pro- pensity for those behaviors to be mimicked by others, which creates what can be thought of as a “cultural infection.”

    Although social learning theory could apply in this context, Bandura’s social learning the- ory was tested on children and did not measure the spread of the learned behaviors to the masses. Bandura also used a hybrid of social learning through modeling and behavioral learning through conditioning with rewards and punishments to measure the impact of the learned behaviors. Social contagion research focuses solely on mimicking the behaviors after exposure.

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    The well-known Bobo doll experiment demonstrated social learning theory by illustrating how children mimicked the behavior of the adult they had observed when the adult left the room and they were alone with the doll.

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    Section 6.5 Learning Theories of Aggression

    To evaluate the magnitude of social contagion of mass shootings, Towers, Gomez-Lievano, Khan, Mubayi, and Castillo-Chavez (2015) noted that mass shootings appeared to occur in clusters. The researchers analyzed news reports of mass shootings from 1997 to 2013, defin- ing mass shooting as any in which there were at least four victims murdered during the event. Towers et al. found that following such shootings, a “contagion” period occurred for up to approximately 2 weeks, during which there was a 20% to 30% increase in similarly violent incidents. The researchers concluded that media coverage publicizing these acts of violence contributed to social contagion of mass violence. It is important to understand that these data are merely correlational (a related but not necessarily a causal relationship) but are compel- ling enough to warrant attention, especially if less media coverage sensationalizing such vio- lent events might contribute to saving lives.

    See Figure 6.2 for an example of how social contagion may lead to more active shooter incidents.

    Figure 6.2: 250 active shooter incidents in United States, 2000–2017

    This figure serves as an example of how social contagion may lead to more active shooter incidents. The number of incidents generally increases from 2000 to 2016, with a spike in incidents in 2017. Although this graph does not directly indicate the cause of the increase, it is worth considering the effect of media coverage of aggression and violence on behavior.

    From “Quick Look: 250 Active Shooter Incidents in the United States Between 2000–2017, Casualty Breakdown Per Year,” by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, n.d. ( -incidents-graphic).

    Ye ar

    Number of incidents



















    50 10 15 20 25 30 35



















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    Section 6.6 Factors Related to Aggression

    6.6 Factors Related to Aggression Some developmental psychologists believe that there is a biological basis for aggression and that individuals are genetically predisposed to it, but others believe that aggression develops as a result of exposure to others’ aggressive behavior. Many have conducted research on the implications of aggression regardless of where it originates. The research on developmental and situational factors related to aggression lends validity to the psychological and social learning perspectives.

    Developmental Factors Given its important role in explaining antisocial conduct, psychologists have focused on early childhood aggression as a potential precursor of aggression in adolescence and adulthood. Raine and his colleagues (1998) observed, “Because aggression in early childhood is capable of predicting aggression in adulthood, some of the foundations for later aggressive and vio- lent behavior are probably set in the first few years of life” (p. 745). Aggression is central to antisocial behavior and has been observed across data sources. For example, Daniel Nagin and Richard Tremblay (2001) found that kindergarten boys who are oppositional and hyper- active are about 3 times more likely than other children to be highly aggressive in high school.

    In a classic study, Caspi, Elder, and Bem (1987) examined longitudinal data spanning 30 years on boys and girls ages 8 to 10 who had frequent temper tantrums. Were temper tantrums merely a passing phase of late childhood, or did they have enduring meaning? The results were alarming. Caspi and colleagues found that the explosive, poorly tempered outbursts of childhood similarly emerged in adult contexts when people had to subordinate themselves, such as in work and school settings. Having a bad temper as a child predicted middle adult- hood occupational mobility (i.e., frequent job changes due to quitting or firing), lower educational attainment, and divorce. These effects were similar for males and females.

    Pediatric psychology researchers have found that infant persistence, or how often an infant seeks parental attention and then continues to fuss when his or her mother is unresponsive, has been linked to aggres- sion at age 2 and conduct problems dur- ing the preschool years (Shaw, Bell, & Gilliom, 2000). Moreover, in their longitu- dinal research, Benjamin Lahey and his col- leagues (2008) found that infant fussiness during the first year of life predicted con- duct problems through age 13.

    Kate Keenan and Lauren Wakschlag (2000) reported that preschoolers as young as 30 months present symptoms that are consistent with serious behavioral disorders, such as ADHD, ODD, and conduct disorder. In their study of 79 preschool children ages 2.5 to 5.5 years who were referred based on troubling behavior, nearly 50% met the criteria for conduct disorder, and 75% met the criteria for ODD. Nearly 27% met the diagnostic criteria for all three disorders.

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    Caspi, Elder, and Bem (1987) found that the explosive, poorly tempered outbursts of childhood similarly emerged in adult contexts when people had to subordinate themselves.

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    Section 6.7 Gender and Aggression

    Some of these children were so aggressive and uncontrollable that they were expelled from preschool.

    Furthermore, Susan Campbell and Linda Ewing (1990) found that 67% of children who were rated as hard to manage at age 3 met diagnostic criteria for externalizing disorders at age 9, and the diagnostic data were validated by maternal and teacher reports. Hard-to-manage pre- schoolers display a troubling set of characteristics that lend themselves to prolonged antiso- cial conduct and compromised prosocial development. Mothers, fathers, and teachers report that hard-to-manage children as young as age 3 are noteworthy for their poor impulse con- trol, oppositional tendencies, poorly developed social skills, inattention, and school problems (Campbell, 1994).

    Situational Factors Situational factors are those that occur externally in our environment, rather than internally as biological factors, and they often have a powerful influence on human behavior. Commonly encountered situational factors that may have an effect on aggression include but are not limited to socioeconomic status, level of educational attainment, the people we encounter and socialize with, our neighborhood environment, and other adverse childhood experiences such as abuse and neglect. Situational factors that influence aggressive behavior are generally studied by social psychologists, and some of their findings are shared in this section.

    Using data from an all-male, high-risk sample in Montreal, Canada, Nagin and Tremblay (2001) found that persistently aggressive kindergarteners often came from homes character- ized by teenage mothers, family dissolution, and poverty. For the purpose of the study, the researchers operationalized “high risk” as children who were born into low socioeconomic status and whose parents had also been born into poverty, had attained a poor education, and often had been teenagers when they became parents. The boys in the study also had low IQs, few prosocial skills, and attention difficulties—risk factors that would be enduringly predic- tive of aggression nearly a decade later.

    Based on data from a sample of low-income boys and their families, Shaw, Lacourse, and Nagin (2004) found that a small group consisting of less than 7% of the sample of 284 boys demonstrated high levels of overt conduct problems such as aggressive acts from ages 2 to 10. During this span, their use of aggression was several times that of other trajectories of children. Moreover, about 20% of the sample displayed chronic hyperactivity and attention problems from ages 2 to 10. And in a study of 10 Canadian cohorts including nearly 11,000 children (mostly males from impoverished families) followed over 6 years, Côté, Vaillancourt, LeBlanc, Nagin, and Tremblay (2006) found that about 17% of children demonstrated high levels of aggression from ages 2 to 11. Unlike their peers, they were unable to inhibit the use of force against others.

    6.7 Gender and Aggression Traditional wisdom holds that males are more prone to aggressive behavior than females. However, this concrete dichotomy is not supported by research, particularly when consid- ering the many types of aggression covered in this chapter. Although women and men are

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    Summary and Conclusion

    equally capable of aggressive behavior, the type of aggression does seem to be significantly different based on gender. For example, research shows that men are significantly more likely to engage in physical aggression than women are (Shaver & Mikulincer, 2011).

    It should be noted that toddlers exhibit equally aggressive behaviors regardless of gender until they reach elementary school. This is the stage at which boys and girls are socialized differentially. That is, aggressive behavior is discouraged in girls, whereas boys are encour- aged to be “tough” and defend themselves. This means that girls learn to express aggression in more covert ways (e.g., relational aggression). Research supports the hypothesis that girls are significantly more likely to engage in relational and verbal aggression than they are to engage in physical aggression (see Casey-Cannon, Haward, & Gowen, 2001; Crick & Grotpeter, 1995; Garside & Klimes-Dougan, 2002).

    To provide context about the differences in women versus men in the criminal justice sys- tem, consider the Florida Department of Corrections, which has 74 total major prisons and annexes, including privately run facilities, of which only 5 are women’s facilities. Nationwide, women make up just 10% of the total prison population. When looking at prison population by type of crime, 57% of incarcerated men and just 38% of incarcerated women are serving time for committing violent crime (Sentencing Project, 2019). (Gender differences in violent crimes are discussed in more depth in Chapter 8.) These data support psychology research findings showing that women engage in more covert, nonviolent forms of aggression. The data also provide support for the perspective that gender differences in aggressive behavior are not attributable only to biological differences in men and women but also to stark differ- ences in how girls and boys are socialized.

    Summary and Conclusion

    Psychology researchers and criminologists continue to study aggression and the factors that influence the likelihood of engaging in aggressive behavior—particularly criminally aggres- sive behavior. In order for a behavior to be considered aggressive, it must be accompanied by an intent to harm another living being who is motivated to avoid being harmed. In this chapter, we discussed the major categories of aggression—hostile or instrumental, physical or nonphysical—and some of the seminal research findings in these areas.

    Psychologists have theories about whether aggression is biological (e.g., excitation transfer theory or psychoanalytic/Freudian theory) or learned (e.g., social learning theory or social contagion theory), and there is credible research in support of both perspectives. Each perspective makes a valuable contribution to our ability to comprehend foundations and potential triggers of aggressive behavior.

    Perhaps the most troubling aspect of aggression research is the recent finding that social contagion may lead to increased mass violence due to sensational media coverage of these events. However, the most encouraging finding may lie in Bandura’s social learning theory, which shows that when prosocial helping behavior is modeled for children, they are as likely to imitate the helping behavior as they are to mimic aggressive behavior. It may be that social contagion theory can be employed to elicit more prosocial behaviors via focusing media coverage on acts of kindness designed to reduce incidents of violence and aggression.

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    Summary and Conclusion

    The research on aggressive behavior shows that there are observable gender differences in the type of aggressive behavior perpetrated. Specifically, males tend to be more physically aggressive, and females are more likely to engage in relational aggression. However, toddler research shows that this is not attributable solely to biological differences between genders, as evidenced by equal engagement in physical aggression up until elementary school. Much of the research shows that there are remarkable differences in how boys and girls are social- ized in school that have a direct influence on the type of aggressive behavior they engage in.

    Finally, the chapter covered some of the seminal research on developmental and situational causes of aggression, bringing to light some of the complexities involved in predicting fac- tors that may contribute to aggressive behavior. The research appears to show that low socioeconomic status, having parents with low educational attainment, and environmental factors such as living conditions—including child abuse, neglect, and abject poverty—can have a negative influence on behavior. It is important to remember that there are many people who live in less-than-desirable conditions but who do not behave aggressively. These individual differences are a major reason why continuing research is necessary to further identify which factors may contribute to aggression and under what conditions.

    Critical Thinking Questions

    1. What are the elements of an act that help distinguish it as aggressive behavior? 2. What are some of the factors that may be associated with aggressive behavior? 3. Explain social contagion theory and how it relates to mass violence. 4. Propose your own hybrid theory of aggression composed of a combination of bio-

    logical, evolutionary, and/or learned perspectives. 5. Design an intervention to prevent physical (violent) aggression.

    Key Terms aggression Any form of behavior directed toward the goal of harming another living being who is motivated to avoid being harmed.

    catharsis The process of releasing or purging repressed emotions.

    Cinderella effect An evolutionary psychology phenomenon that posits that the prevalence of child abuse perpetrated by stepparents on their stepchildren is significantly higher than that perpetrated by biological parents on their own children.

    excitation transfer theory A theory that regardless of how physiological arousal is produced, the heightened state of arousal dissipates slowly, is not situation specific, and thus can generalize to other situations, resulting in aggression.

    frustration–aggression hypothesis The theory that aggression will always occur as a result of experiencing frustration. Later revised to note that although frustration may occur before aggression, there are other factors that may produce aggressive behavior.

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    Summary and Conclusion

    hostile aggression Reactive, impulsive, or “hot” aggression that occurs as the result of a real or perceived threat or insult. Driven by emotions.

    instrumental aggression Planned or “cool” aggression that occurs as a means to some end. Lacks an emotional component.

    physical aggression A form of aggression that can include hitting, biting, scratching, kicking, stabbing, shooting, punching, or any other physical act that is intended to cause bodily harm to another living being.

    relational aggression A covert type of aggression that occurs when the desired intent is to harm another’s relationships or social standing.

    social contagion theory A type of social influence that occurs when a modeled behavior spreads from one crowd participant to another after observing the behavior or by media coverage of the behavior.

    verbal aggression A form of nonphysical aggression that includes shouting, swearing, name-calling, or any other nonphysical verbal behavior that is intended to harm another living being when that individual is motivated to avoid being harmed.

    violence Aggressive behavior that uses physical force intended to cause bodily injury or death.

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    7Juveniles and Crime

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    Learning Outcomes

    After reading this chapter, you should be able to

    • Define juvenile delinquency.

    • Explore why the general perception and treatment of juvenile delinquents can be harshly punitive.

    • Discuss Moffitt’s theories related to juvenile delinquency.

    • Analyze research related to juvenile brain development.

    • Describe resources related to prevention and intervention for juvenile offenders.

    • Explain the main differences between primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention programs.

    • Analyze a case and subsequent legislation regarding a crime committed by a juvenile.

    • Analyze trends and patterns in juvenile incarceration.

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    Section 7.1 Introduction

    Introductory Case Study: Dylan Thomas Dylan Thomas was a 17-year-old Florida high school senior who had never been in trouble with the law when he was charged with the attempted first-degree murder of his classmate, Daniel Vukovich. Thomas’s girlfriend, 18-year-old Jessica Umberger, had convinced Thomas that Vukov- ich stole marijuana from Thomas’s home when Thomas wasn’t there. Umberger told Thomas, in front of their group of friends, that he would have to “take care” of Vukovich to send a clear message that stealing from him was unacceptable. If there was any doubt about what Umberger meant by “take care of,” she erased that uncertainty by posting on social media about the plan to attack Vukovich.

    On the morning of February 19, 2015, 18-year-old Rebecca Gotay, a close friend of Umberger’s and Thomas’s, drove the couple to Vukovich’s home, where Thomas attacked Vukovich with a crowbar. Vukovich suffered multiple head fractures and had to be airlifted to the nearest trauma hospital for lifesaving surgery. Fortunately, Vukovich made a full recovery in a relatively short time.

    Vukovich’s mother had no idea who could have attacked her son so viciously in his driveway in the tony community of Satellite Beach, Florida. However, due to Umberger’s multiple social media posts and text messages and general high school gossip, police zeroed in on the three young suspects rather quickly. Thomas, Umberger, and Gotay were arrested for the attempted first-degree murder of Vukovich. The three young defendants faced life in prison without the pos- sibility of parole. Despite the fact that Thomas was a juvenile at the time of the crime, the state chose to prosecute him as an adult based on the seriousness of the case. Umberger and Gotay, who were already legal adults, were also prosecuted in the adult criminal justice system.

    Thomas’s charges were eventually reduced to attempted second-degree murder. He was sen- tenced to 10 years in state prison. Umberger and Gotay were each sentenced to 7 years in state prison for aggravated battery with intent to do harm.

    As you read this chapter, consider the following questions regarding this case:

    1. Do you think the punishments were too harsh or too lenient for Thomas, Umberger, and Gotay? Why?

    2. Do you think juveniles can make sound decisions, or do you think it is beyond their capacity?

    3. Do you think that it is appropriate to try juveniles as adults? Why or why not?

    7.1 Introduction According to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), more than 900,000 juveniles under age 18 were arrested in 2015. The number of juveniles arrested in 2016 fell by approximately 7%, when a little more than 850,000 juveniles were arrested for some type of delinquent behavior. Of those, approximately 176,000 were under age 15 (OJJDP, 2018).

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    Section 7.2 What Is Juvenile Delinquency?

    The criminal behaviors that led to juvenile arrests ranged from relatively minor infractions such as breaking curfew ordinances up to the most serious types of criminal behavior, such as homicide, assault, battery, and rape. The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Uniform Crime Report reveals that approximately 21,000 juveniles were arrested in 2017 for the vio- lent crime of aggravated assault; in contrast, more than 70,000 were arrested for drug-related offenses. For the most serious crime of homicide, there were less than 1,000 juveniles arrested in 2016 and 2017 (FBI, 2018). Regardless of what crime led to arrest, the most common clas- sification for juveniles who encounter the juvenile justice system is that of juvenile delinquent.

    7.2 What Is Juvenile Delinquency? Although delinquent is defined by Black’s Law Dictionary (Garner, 2014) as someone of any age who commits crimes, the term is most commonly applied to juveniles. A juvenile delin- quent is an individual under age 18 who is arrested for criminal behavior. The term juvenile delinquency is specifically defined by the U.S. Department of Justice (2018) as

    the violation of a law of the United States committed by a person prior to his eighteenth birthday which would have been a crime if committed by an adult. A person over eighteen but under twenty-one years of age is also accorded juvenile treatment if the act of juvenile delinquency occurred prior to his eigh- teenth birthday.

    In the United States, there are many jurisdictions in which there is no minimum age at which police may arrest and the state may prosecute individuals in the juvenile justice system. In fact, according to the National Juvenile Defender Center (2019), in 28 states minors of any age can be arrested and adju- dicated as juvenile delinquents. Florida holds the distinction for arresting the youngest child in the nation, at just 4 years old (Alanez, 2016). The tod- dler was taken into custody along with other chil- dren in his family for criminal mischief. The group of very young children, the oldest of which was 11, were accused of vandalizing a neighbor’s shed with markers and spray paint. Ultimately, they were not prosecuted, because they were simply young chil- dren misbehaving.

    Juvenile Delinquent Versus Youthful Offender Although juvenile delinquents are defined as those who have not yet attained the age of legal adulthood (which is age 18 in most jurisdictions), the federal

    Will Dickey/Florida Times-Union/Associated Press

    Cristian Fernandez was 12 years old when he killed his 2-year-old half brother and was thus considered a juvenile delinquent.

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    Section 7.2 What Is Juvenile Delinquency?

    government has the discretion to consider a young adult under age 25 a youthful offender (Pryor et al., 2017). A youthful offender is someone who is no longer a minor and thus is not eligible to be sentenced in the juvenile justice system. However, youthful offender status means that if adjudicated (i.e., judged) guilty of the offense, the young adult will be placed in a special youthful offender facility and have access to specialized interventions designed to facilitate rehabilitation. However, in many states youthful offender status may be granted only until age 21 and may not be granted at all for serious and violent crimes such as homicide or rape. These are the types of serious crimes for which many states will transfer the youthful offender or the juvenile to the adult criminal system for prosecution.

    Types and Demographics of Juvenile Arrests The most common types of crimes committed by those classified as youthful offenders and juvenile delinquents are nonviolent offenses, typically drug offenses (Pryor et al., 2017). This is not significantly different than the types of crimes committed by adult offenders. Table 7.1 shows demographic characteristics of the juveniles arrested in the United States in 2017.

    Table 7.1: Demographic characteristics of juvenile arrests, 2017

    Most serious offense

    Number of juvenile arrests Female

    Under age 15 White Black

    American Indian Asian

    All offenses 809,700 29% 28% 62% 35% 2% 1%

    Murder and nonnegligent manslaughter

    910 8% 9% 38% 61% 1% 1%


    Robbery 19,330 10% 19% 32% 67% 0% 1%

    Aggravated assault 28,220 26% 33% 54% 42% 2% 1%

    Burglary 30,850 12% 31% 56% 41% 2% 1%

    Larceny-theft 118,660 37% 28% 57% 39% 2% 2%

    Motor vehicle theft 16,300 18% 24% 45% 52% 2% 1%

    Arson 2,240 14% 57% 73% 25% 1% 1%

    Simple assault 123,040 37% 39% 58% 39% 2% 1%

    Forgery and counterfeiting 1,220 22% 14% 58% 40% 1% 1%

    Fraud 4,760 33% 20% 46% 51% 2% 1%

    Embezzlement 640 43% 8% 55% 41% 1% 2%

    Stolen property (buying, receiving, possessing)

    10,500 16% 21% 41% 57% 1% 2%

    Vandalism 36,720 18% 40% 69% 28% 2% 1%


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    Section 7.2 What Is Juvenile Delinquency?

    Most serious offense

    Number of juvenile arrests Female

    Under age 15 White Black

    American Indian Asian

    Weapons (carrying, possessing, etc.)

    18,370 10% 29% 54% 44% 1% 2%

    Prostitution and commercialized vice

    280 61% 14% 45% 53% 1% 1%

    Sex offenses (except rape & prostitution)


    Drug abuse violations 94,830 24% 15% 74% 22% 2% 2%

    Gambling 270 18% 13% 21% 76% 1% 1%

    Offenses against the family and children

    3,770 37% 34% 58% 28% 14% 1%

    Driving under the influence 6,080 25% 2% 89% 7% 3% 2%

    Liquor laws 33,560 41% 12% 87% 6% 5% 2%

    Drunkenness 4,300 30% 13% 78% 8% 12% 1%

    Disorderly conduct 62,530 36% 39% 54% 43% 2% 1%

    Vagrancy 730 22% 26% 53% 45% 1% 1%

    All other offenses (except traffic) 149,050 28% 25% 66% 30% 2% 1%

    Curfew and loitering 30,130 30% 29% 56% 41% 2% 2%

    Violent Crime Index* NA NA NA NA NA NA NA

    Property Crime Index** 168,050 30% 29% 56% 40% 2% 2%

    Violent crimes 48,470 20% 27% 45% 52% 1% 1%

    *Violent Crime Index includes murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault.

    **Property Crime Index includes burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson.

    Source: Statistical Briefing Book, by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 2018 ( /ojstatbb/crime/qa05104.asp?qaDate=2017).

    A closer look at the arrest data in Table 7.1 shows that violent crimes that include murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault account for less than 6% of all juvenile arrests. According to the OJJDP (2018), the juvenile arrestee group consisted of mostly White (62%; Black = 35%) males (71%; females = 29%), aged 15 to 17 (72%; 14 and younger = 28%). Interestingly, the demographic makeup of the United States consists of only approximately 14% Black individuals (U.S. Census Bureau, 2018), and thus having a disproportionately high percentage of Black minors arrested for any crime signals a potential underlying racial bias issue.

    Table 7.1: Demographic characteristics of juvenile arrests, 2017 (continued)

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    Section 7.2 What Is Juvenile Delinquency?

    The table’s data on gender is consistent with what the research shows regarding female versus male delin- quents. Females are more frequently arrested for crimes such as prostitution and crimes related to alco- hol and drinking, whereas males are more likely to be arrested for violent crimes, vandalism, and weapons.

    Perception of Juvenile Delinquents Although juveniles are not arrested nearly as fre- quently as adults, it can be argued that they are the most misunderstood and vilified group of offenders in the country. Despite the fact that the juvenile jus- tice system is designed to offer greater understanding, rehabilitation, and leniency to juvenile offenders than that afforded to adults, harsh judgments and advocacy

    in favor of stiffer sentencing of juvenile offenders are not uncommon. Pickett and Chiricos (2012) examined attitudes of adults toward punitive juvenile justice policies, including the decision to transfer certain juvenile offenders to the adult court system. Findings showed that White individuals who tested high in “racial resentment” were significantly more likely than those who lacked such bias to support harsh punishments, including transferring juveniles to the adult criminal justice system for prosecution. See Spotlight: Bias and Juvenile Incarcera- tion to read about a now discredited theory about juveniles that involved personal bias.

    FelixRenaud/iStock/Getty Images Plus

    Males are most likely to be arrested for violent crimes, vandalism, and weapons, while females are more frequently arrested for crimes such as prostitution and drunkenness.

    Spotlight: Bias and Juvenile Incarceration The negative perception of juvenile offenders is nothing new. As Pickett and Chiricos (2012) point out, the racial bias that drives this philosophy has arisen in the post–civil rights era. It appeared to have reached fever pitch in 1995, when political scientist John DiIulio wrote an explosive article predicting that a new breed of juvenile offender that he dubbed the super- predator was going to invade the idyllic American lifestyle. Without any credible scientific data, DiIulio (1995) wrote that so-called superpredators were mostly from Black inner-city neighborhoods, lived in single-parent households, had fathers who had a criminal record, and had at least one parent who abused drugs and/or alcohol. DiIulio also stated that these inner- city superpredators were “morally impoverished” and were going to invade “upscale” subur- bia and “even the rural heartland” (as cited in Drum, 2016).

    Although you may be able to point to many issues with DiIulio’s theory, in a real-world con- text the major problem with it is that there has never been any credible scientific evidence in support of the idea of children as superpredators. DiIulio, who was on the political science faculty at Princeton University, wrote about his superpredator theory on behalf of a conserva- tive special interest group to which he belonged. DiIulio’s rhetoric struck fear in many major stakeholders in the criminal justice system.

    By 2001, in response to declining juvenile crime rates and significant criticism from schol- ars, DiIulio had retracted most of his unsupported claims about the existence of the juvenile superpredator and acknowledged deep regret over his mistake (Becker, 2001). This is now commonly referred to as “the myth of the juvenile superpredator” (Vitale, 2018) by schol- ars and scientists who have debunked this pseudoscientific theory that appears to have been based on DiIulio’s own personal, political, and social-class biases.

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    Section 7.3 Moffitt’s Theories Related to Juvenile Delinquency

    7.3 Moffitt’s Theories Related to Juvenile Delinquency The risk factors associated with criminal behavior are covered throughout this text. In the context of juvenile delinquency, Chapters 4 and 5 cover the situational/environmental and biological factors that may be related to criminal behavior in juveniles. However, here we’ll discuss an influential and highly regarded theory that deals directly with juvenile delin- quency typologies. Terrie Moffitt’s (1993) developmental taxonomy theory details two gen- eral types of juvenile criminals: adolescence-limited offender and life-course-persistent offender. Although considered a developmental psychology theory, Moffitt’s theory encom- passes all three major areas of psychology that influence human behavior: biological, social, and developmental.

    Moffitt’s typologies pertain to relatively serious forms of psychopathology that generally affect less than 10% of the population. The most acutely antisocial traits and behaviors are fortunately the rarest. It is also important to highlight that many juveniles who exhibit risk factors that include early onset conduct issues and certain traits such as callous-unemotional traits (discussed in Chapter 3) tend to mature past their antisocial/delinquent behavior (Skeem, Scott, & Mulvey, 2014). Experts on juvenile criminal behavior are finding that antiso- cial behavior in childhood is not necessarily a deterministic path toward criminal behavior as an adult (see Mulvey, 2011; Piquero, Connell, Piquero, Farrington, & Jennings, 2013; Skeem, Scott, et al., 2014; Vincent, Guy, & Grisso, 2012). That is, although certain minors commit repeated acts of juvenile delinquency, it is entirely possible that they outgrow the behavior and live conventional lives as adults.

    Despite this possibility, Moffitt’s typologies are important to the understanding of juvenile delinquent behavior.

    Adolescence-Limited Offender The first of Moffitt’s types consists of a large group that comprises mostly low-level offend- ers who engage in antisocial behavior briefly during adolescence. Moffitt called this group adolescence-limited (AL) offenders, because their antisocial behavior and deviance is the- orized to be caused by mostly sociological factors that speak to the uneven transition from child to adult status.

    Moffitt calls this transition period the “maturity gap,” whereby adolescents experience dissatis- faction with their dependent status as a child and impatience for what they anticipate are the privi- leges and rights of adulthood. Because statuses are inconsistently available to teens (for example, earning a driver’s license, using tobacco, voting, and using alcohol are all legal at different ages), this leads to feelings of frustration and acting-out behaviors.

    By engaging in antisocial behavior and mimicking the behavior of antisocial peers, youths are simply asserting autonomy and attempting to hasten their

    Михаил Руденко/iStock/Getty Images Plus

    The “maturity gap” refers to the period in which children express frustration and impatience for adult privileges such as driving, voting, and buying alcohol and tobacco.

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    Section 7.3 Moffitt’s Theories Related to Juvenile Delinquency

    social maturation. These processes are not only normal but also normative and are generally limited to status-striving behaviors that relate mostly to alcohol use. Moffitt’s theory on this type of offender is that as youth mature into adulthood and assume adult responsibilities, the motivation to commit delinquency ends.

    Life-Course-Persistent Offender The second offender prototype in Moffitt’s taxonomy is a group called life-course-persistent (LCP) offenders. This group is small—only about 10% of the juvenile offender population— but those who fall into this category are pathological in their offending and commit crimes at high rates over a long period. According to Moffitt (2003), LCP offending is likely the result of neuropsychological deficits (recall the executive functions discussed in Chapter 5 and social cognitive approaches to crime discussed in Chapter 4) that interact with disadvantaged early home environments:

    The child’s risk emerges from inherited or acquired deficits, difficult tem- perament, or hyperactivity. The environment’s risk comprises factors such as inadequate parenting, disrupted family bonds, and poverty. The environ- mental risk domain expands beyond the family as the child ages, to include poor relations with people such as peers and teachers. Opportunities to learn prosocial skills are lost. Over the first two decades of development, transac- tions between the individual and the environment gradually construct a dis- ordered personality with hallmark features of physical aggression and anti- social behavior persisting to midlife . . . the life-course-persistent pattern of antisocial behavior appears to have substantial heritable liability. (pp. 50–53)

    Although sociological processes or factors are also invoked to explain more severe forms of antisocial behavior, its etiology is believed to be more dependent on biological, genetic, and biosocial variables. Indeed, a variety of criminological explanations view recurrent problem behavior as manifestations of some individual-level pathology that remains stable within an individual across social settings and circumstances. More pointedly, this theoretical perspec- tive asserts that serious offenders have been problematic since early childhood, and their multifaceted acts of wayward behavior are, quite simply, demonstrative of their psychopa- thology (DeLisi, 2005).

    Studies Supporting Moffitt’s Theory There is widespread empirical support for many of the ideas in Moffitt’s taxonomy. Longitu- dinal data from the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study has shown that AL and LCP offenders can be distinguished as early as age 3 based on neurological abnormali- ties, cognitive problems, hyperactivity, undercontrolled temperaments characterized by low self-regulation, and other risk factors. These early life factors predict externalizing symptoms, delinquency, and violence into adulthood (for a research overview, see Moffitt, 2003).

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    Section 7.3 Moffitt’s Theories Related to Juvenile Delinquency

    Examples of studies that support Moffitt’s theory include a widely cited large-scale study that employed data from Canada, New Zealand, and the United States; Broidy and her colleagues (2003) found evidence of an LCP offending male whose life was characterized by cognitive problems, neuropsychological deficits, aggression, and other externalizing symptoms. In one of the largest studies of an offender subgroup consistent with the LCP prototype, Vaughn, DeLisi, and their colleagues (2011) studied the externalizing behavior spectrum among more than 43,000 participants in the National Epidemiologic Study on Alcohol and Related Condi- tions (NESARC). They measured 34 forms of externalizing behavior spanning various forms of substance use and abuse; assorted examples of school, work, and relationship maladaptive behaviors; and diverse forms of criminal and antisocial behavior. A severe group consisting of about 5% of the NESARC was found, and members of this group displayed significantly higher levels of externalizing symptoms and psychiatric disturbance—a profile that is congruent with Moffitt’s (1993, 2003) notion of the LCP offender.

    Criticisms Despite the impressive empirical support and influence of Moffitt’s developmental taxonomy, it has received criticism. For example, Sampson and Laub (2003) suggested that the notion of an LCP offender is a misnomer because virtually all offenders—even those who when younger were serious, high-rate offenders—desist as they age. The researchers followed a cohort of offenders through age 70 and found that life-course desistance rather than persistence was the usual developmental pattern.

    More recently, Walters (2011) used sophisticated analyses that find latent groupings in data among nearly 2,000 participants from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth-Child Data to examine the existence of AL and LCP offender groups. He found no evidence that the offender prototypes were categorically distinct groups. Instead, they were located on a dimensional spectrum of antisocial traits, on which AL and LCP offenders are different in degree but not in kind. Walters (2011) concluded, however, that it is more of a technical point whether Moffitt’s taxonomy is a true taxonomy, because the knowledge about AL and LCP offenders is still valid and informs research and policy.

    Another key criticism of Moffitt’s theory is that it was developed based on male juvenile offenders and thus may not adequately predict and explain female juvenile offender behavior. To address this criticism, Moffitt and Caspi (2001) examined whether the theory could be applied to female juvenile offenders, and their research yielded partial support that it does apply. That is, their research showed that the LCP type is significantly more prevalent in boys than in girls, with less than 2% of female offenders meeting this category’s criteria. This is supported by other researchers who evaluated the gender-specific relevance of the theory (see Côté, Zoccolillo, Tremblay, Nagin, & Vitaro, 2001; Fontaine, Carbonneau, Vitaro, Barker, & Tremblay, 2009). However, for those who meet the AL type criteria, this category appears to apply equally to both female and male juvenile delinquents. Perhaps one of the biggest pre- dictors of whether females engage in delinquent behavior at an early age is association with delinquent peers, especially if the influence is a delinquent boy (Moffitt, 2003). That is, girls may be drawn into criminal behavior by having a close relationship with a male counterpart who commits crimes, whereas boys are often drawn into delinquent behavior by their group of friends.

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    Section 7.4 Juvenile Brain and Delinquent Behavior

    Extending Moffitt’s Theory A group of researchers continued Moffitt’s theory, finding a third and final group that is also relatively small (about 10% of the population). This group, called “abstainers,” is composed of those individuals who do not engage in any form of antisocial behavior, even during ado- lescence. Research suggests that abstainers are higher functioning individuals who never felt the “teenage angst” that AL offenders did (Vaughn, DeLisi, et al., 2011). Abstainers have been shown to be an acutely prosocial group even at an early age. The group is characterized by high psychosocial health and school performance and significantly fewer mood, anxiety, and personality disorders than those who engage in deviance. As a result, there is neither the motivation nor the interest to engage in trivial forms of delinquency and substance exper- imentation like their peers. Using data from the NESARC, Vaughn et al. (2011) found that about 11% of the general public abstains from substance use and antisocial behavior in the United States.

    7.4 Juvenile Brain and Delinquent Behavior A dynamic area of research on developing theories of juvenile criminal behavior comes out of neuroscience and neuropsychology. Juvenile brain is a term of endearment for the lack of a fully mature human brain and its influence on the risk-taking behaviors of adolescents. That is, juvenile brain refers to the normal structural differences that exist between younger brains and those of fully grown adults. It is now generally accepted among the relevant scientific, medical, and even criminal justice communities that the human brain is not fully mature until sometime after age 25, with the frontal lobe being the last part of the brain to develop (John- son, Blum, & Giedd, 2009). The frontal lobe is arguably the most important part of the brain when considering the ability to control one’s impulses and to think and reason rationally (see Figure 7.1; American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 2016). It is responsible for cognitive processes that include impulse control, judgment, planning, and the ability to rea- son effectively.

    According to Tierney and Nelson (2009), the neural networks that help brain cells commu- nicate information use chemical signals, and these networks are robust in teenagers. There are advantages to having robust neural networks, particularly when it comes to learning new tasks. For example, thanks to these robust neural networks, children are able to learn complex new information such as foreign languages and musical instruments much more easily than adults, who have less robust neural networks. A disadvantage, though, is that these robust neural networks also render kids more vulnerable to sleep deprivation, a common issue for many American teenagers, and to inflated emotional reactions to stressful situations.

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    Section 7.4 Juvenile Brain and Delinquent Behavior

    Figure 7.1: Lobes of the brain and behavior

    The four lobes of the brain—frontal, temporal, parietal, and occipital—are responsible for different behaviors, whether physical or mental. In the context of juvenile brain, the most important lobe for controlling impulses, sound judgment and reasoning, and higher thought processes is the frontal lobe.

    From “Brain Injury Overview: What Is It and What Does It Affect?,” by Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, 2018 ( /lifecenter/resources/brain-injury-overview-what-it-and-what-does-it-affect).

    Frontal lobe

    Motor activity Higher thought processes Problem solving Emotional traits Reasoning (judgment) Speaking Voluntary motor activity

    Temporal lobe

    Auditory cortex Language Speech Understanding language Behavior Memory Hearing

    Parietal lobe

    Knowing right from left Sensation Reading Body orientation

    Occipital lobe

    Visual cortex Vision Color perception

    Emotion-Based Decision Making Research on juvenile brain development shows that if teenagers are asked hypothetical ques- tions about risk and reward, they will often state similar responses as adults. That is, teens may provide the same informational answers as adults. However, they are emotionally imma- ture, and thus when answering the questions in a controlled setting such as a research labo- ratory, they likely are not in the same emotional state as when they are tasked with actually making important decisions (Casey, Jones, & Hare, 2008). Generally speaking, juveniles find it more difficult than adults to interrupt an action once they have started performing it. Like- wise, they tend to lack the ability to think before acting, as well as to choose between safe versus risky alternatives.

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    Section 7.4 Juvenile Brain and Delinquent Behavior

    For example, when asked if they would get into the car with a drunk driver, most juveniles will state without hesitation the appropriate response and deny that they would do so. However, research shows that when actually in this situation, the majority would find it incredibly dif- ficult to avoid getting into the car despite knowing that the driver had been drinking (Stein- berg, 2004).

    These findings show that juveniles may know the difference between right and wrong, but under certain conditions they are prone to making objectively bad decisions. This is partially attributable to the juvenile’s inability to predict potential consequences of making question- able decisions; however, much is attributable to juveniles’ drive for new experiences and thrill-seeking impulses. That is, juveniles, particularly boys, seem driven to seek experiences that produce strong feelings and sensations (Steinberg, 2004).

    Social Pressure–Based Decision Making Juveniles’ judgment can also be significantly affected by social pressure, the power of which should not be underestimated when considered in the context of influencing behavior. Resist- ing social pressure is incredibly difficult for juveniles. Much of their troubling behavior—from aggression to reckless driving to substance use and abuse—occurs in groups due to group pressure and peer influence. The effects of social pressure on teens’ behaviors may be directly attributable to their immature, not yet fully developed brains.

    In a psychological experiment conducted by Haddad, Harrison, Norman, and Lau (2014), the researchers examined the effects that perceived peer observation had on risky decision mak- ing in adults and adolescents using a virtual social context that enabled experimental control over peer interactions. Participants—40 adolescents and 28 adults—completed a risk-taking task across four conditions. The risk-taking task was a gambling task in which participants wagered nonmonetary bets under various conditions. One condition was “private,” with no peers observing the participant. Another condition occurred while participants believed they were being observed by peers. A third condition was receiving “risky” advice from the ficti- tious peers, and the fourth condition was receiving “safe” advice from the peers.

    Results of this study showed that when making high-risk gambles, adolescents made more risky decisions under the peer observation condition than their adult participant counter- parts did. The adolescent group tended to resist “safe” advice for high-risk gambles signif- icantly more often than adults did. Although both groups of participants tended to follow “risky” advice for high-risk gambles, the adolescent participants were significantly more likely than adults to make risky decisions when they believed they were being observed by their peers. These findings highlight that when adolescents believed they were observed by peers, they were significantly more likely than adults to behave in a risky manner.

    This phenomenon is observable and applies to the introductory case study at the beginning of this chapter. Dylan Thomas’s behavior and Jessica Umberger’s and Rebecca Gotay’s observa- tions of Thomas’s behavior—along with their encouragement—were the catalysts for Thomas to take aggressive criminal action against Daniel Vukovich. Umberger and Gotay were active participants in the crime, applying social pressure that incited Thomas to go through with assaulting Vukovich. Although Thomas was ultimately responsible for harming Vukovich, the effect that his teenage brain had on his ability to think and reason appropriately cannot be overlooked or underestimated.

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    Section 7.5 Prevention and Intervention for Juvenile Offenders

    7.5 Prevention and Intervention for Juvenile Offenders There are an overwhelming number of prevention and intervention programs for young offenders who come into contact with the juvenile justice system. The focus of the judicial system is on making decisions that are in the best interests of the child. Unfortunately, though, the vast majority of existing delinquency prevention and intervention programs have not been subject to data effectiveness evaluations.

    According to Evans-Chase and Zhou (2014), of the prevention programs that have been evalu- ated for efficacy, the results are less than favorable. Data effectiveness evaluations require significant resources, which most agencies that offer not-for-profit juvenile delinquency pro- grams do not have. The lack of efficacy observed in juvenile treatment programs is attribut- able largely to a lack of the juvenile offender having the insight that change needs to occur and the lack of motivation to change (Shaw, Gilliom, Ingoldsby, & Nagin, 2003; Tarolla, Rabinowitz, Wagner, & Tubman, 2002). It may also be at least partly attributable to the trend of treating juveniles to harsh punishments with the attitude that any rehabilitative resources would be wasted on them.

    However, the justice system and thus public conscience is changing based on the brain sci- ence that tells us that kids must have a meaningful opportunity to demonstrate that they can change (see Graham v. Florida, 2010; Miller v. Alabama, 2012). In order to do this, there have to be interventions in place to address reducing or eliminating risk factors for offending prior to when the adverse behavior patterns emerge (primary intervention), to address those who are showing early signs of developing antisocial behavior but who have not yet offended (sec- ondary intervention), and to intervene with treatment when minors have committed serious offenses or are repeat offenders (tertiary intervention), despite having received primary and secondary interventions.

    Primary Intervention Primary intervention, best conceptualized as prevention programming, occurs when chil- dren have been identified as being at risk of developing serious antisocial behavior patterns due to exposure to external stressors. These can include being abused or neglected, living in abject poverty, peer rejection, having an incarcerated parent, and any other adverse child- hood experiences (Ruffolo, Sarri, & Goodkind, 2004; see Spotlight: Head Start Program to learn more about a successful type of primary intervention program). Research shows that adverse childhood experiences place juveniles at risk not only for victimization but also for perpetration of violence (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2019). See Figure 7.2 for a look at adolescent risk behaviors by family income.

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    Section 7.5 Prevention and Intervention for Juvenile Offenders

    In order to overcome any risk caused by exposure to adverse early childhood trauma, primary prevention programs focus on building resilience. Resilience is a protective factor that rep- resents the extent to which an individual recovers quickly from difficult situations. Bonanno (2014) asserts that resilience is our ability to maintain equilibrium in the face of adversity. In 2004 Waaktaar, Christie, Borge, and Torgerson examined resilience as a protective factor for high-risk youths by focusing on four resilience factors: self-efficacy, positive peer relations, creativity, and coherence.

    Self-efficacy is the extent to which an individual believes she or he has the ability to complete a task successfully (Bandura, 1989). Positive peer relations refers to prosocial interactions such as helping peers, teamwork, and collaborative learning. Creativity refers to artistic talent through music, writing, or dance. Coherence refers to recognizing a coherent meaning to past, present, and future life through maintaining positive cognition and not blaming oneself for cir- cumstances beyond one’s control. Results showed that therapeutic interventions that focused on these four protective factors significantly increased resilience (Waaktaar et al., 2004).

    Figure 7.2: Adolescent risk behaviors by family income level

    As this graph shows, although juveniles from low-income families are as likely to use or sell drugs as are their higher income counterparts, the former are significantly more likely to engage in violent criminal behavior. Primary intervention could be helpful for youth from lower income families to ensure that they avoid risk of victimization and perpetration of violence.

    Adapted with permission from the Brookings Institution.

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    Section 7.5 Prevention and Intervention for Juvenile Offenders

    Spotlight: Head Start Program An example of a primary prevention program is the federally funded Head Start program. In response to the War on Poverty in the 1960s, President Lyndon B. Johnson authorized fund- ing for Head Start as an 8-week pilot program. The program was aimed at promoting school readiness and overall healthy development in children from high-poverty areas. Johnson’s goal in funding Head Start was to eradicate poverty through education that would presumably lead to better job opportunities.

    The program focuses on early childhood devel- opment interventions on behalf of children who are categorized as “low poverty” from birth to 5 years of age. This category includes home- less children, those in foster care, and kids from families who receive public assistance. Head Start has evolved from a short-term program to one offering services continuously during early childhood.

    Services offered by Head Start programs vary by jurisdiction and are often tailored to the indi- vidual child and family. However, all Head Start programs have four main components: educa- tion, health, parent involvement, and social services. The educational aspect places emphasis on language and literacy, as well as strengthening parental bonds and teaching parents that they are their child’s most important teacher. The health aspect includes assessment of health services (such as immunizations) that the children may need, and social services provide out- reach to determine what services families may need.

    Although the Head Start program receives federal funding, it is offered and administered by many states in more than 2,800 programs nationwide. Head Start serves over 1 million chil- dren annually.

    The impact of Head Start on low-SES communities is overwhelmingly positive. For example, children who receive Head Start services in early childhood are more likely to graduate high school and go on to college (Bauer & Schanzenbach, 2016; Deming, 2009), are more likely to be physically healthier than their non–Head Start counterparts (Deming, 2009; Johnson, 2010), and are significantly less likely to be arrested and charged with a crime than siblings who did not receive Head Start benefits (Garces, Thomas, & Currie, 2002).

    For more information on Head Start, check out the following websites:

    • •

    John R. Crane/Danville Register & Bee/ Associated Press

    Children from a Head Start program plant flowers near the former elementary school that now houses their program.

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    Section 7.5 Prevention and Intervention for Juvenile Offenders

    Secondary Intervention Secondary intervention strategies are aimed at treating young offenders who have had lim- ited contact with the juvenile justice system and who have been identified as high risk for developing serious antisocial behavior patterns. These juveniles may also have mental health issues, including substance abuse or addiction problems, depression, anxiety, or other mental illnesses.

    One issue with secondary prevention programs is that because they generally are not applied until the youth is an adolescent and the negative behavioral patterns have begun, they tend to be relatively ineffective in reducing recidivism (Schwalbe, Gearing, MacKenzie, Brewer, & Ibrahim, 2012).

    Diversion Programming Perhaps the most common form of secondary intervention is juvenile diversion program- ming. The goal of diversion programs is to intervene in a less formal manner than processing the youth through the juvenile justice system. Entering a diversion program—such as com- munity service—helps youths avoid formal charges as long as the conditions of the program are met.

    However, Schwalbe and colleagues (2012), in their meta-analysis on juvenile diversion pro- gram efficacy, showed that only family counseling interventions and restorative justice inter- ventions had a significant positive effect on reducing recidivism.

    Restorative Justice Restorative justice is a holistic approach to justice that focuses on precisely what harm was done and how the harm can be repaired or mitigated; it includes those most affected by the harm by making them active participants in the criminal justice process and outcome (Centre for Justice & Reconciliation, 2019). It is being implemented more frequently in both the juve- nile and adult criminal justice systems. In fact, in 1994 the OJJDP funded the Balanced and Restorative Justice (BARJ) Project to provide training and support to juvenile justice system stakeholders in states that were seeking to engage in juvenile justice reform (Pavelka, 2016).

    Rather than focusing exclusively on punishment, the BARJ Project focuses on offender account- ability and peace building. That is, the offender, through this intervention, comes to recognize the harm done to victims and the community as a result of his or her actions. There are a num- ber of jurisdictions that have juvenile restorative justice programs. The OJJDP provides guidance and support to jurisdictions that wish to implement BARJ programs. Many states have some form of BARJ that is administered either in the juvenile court system or at school in an effort to address delinquent behavior without transferring juveniles to the criminal justice system. For more information about BARJ and restorative justice programs, visit the following links:

    • •

    Not every offender and victim are well suited to the restorative justice process, however. For example, if the offender does not accept responsibility for causing harm, or if it is determined that the victim would suffer further trauma as a result, then this intervention is ill advised.

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    Section 7.5 Prevention and Intervention for Juvenile Offenders

    Moreover, the victim and/or the offender may decline to participate in the restorative justice process. Last, most jurisdictions do not have funding for restorative justice programs. As of 2016, only 20 states had language in their statutes that incorporated restorative justice inter- ventions (Pavelka, 2016).

    It is important to keep in mind that just because the Schwalbe et al. (2012) meta-analysis only showed significant results in reducing recidivism for family counseling interventions and restorative justice interventions, this is not conclusive evidence that the other types of secondary intervention programs were completely ineffective in helping juvenile offenders. Psychological research studies evaluate data and highlight statistically significant results. Therefore, the study results can best be conceptualized as inconclusive where other types of secondary intervention programs are concerned. Other types of secondary interventions may not have shown a statistically significant effect on reducing recidivism, but there could be a number of explanations for this; for example, there may not have been enough programs included in the study to make a determination.

    See Spotlight: Scared Straight Programs to learn about a now discredited theory regarding a type of secondary intervention for juvenile delinquents.

    Spotlight: Scared Straight Programs Although the superordinate goal of any intervention is to reduce recidivism, perhaps another important focus should be on ensuring that intervention programs do not show an increase in recidivism rates.

    Following a 1978 documentary at a New Jersey prison entitled Scared Straight, in the 1980s and 1990s at least 30 jurisdictions nationwide replicated the Scared Straight program, and almost every other state had some form of it. (It was also implemented abroad in the United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, Norway, and Canada.) These programs took troubled youth and placed them in prison for the day alongside some of the most violent convicted felons, who would “scare” the kids into behaving appropriately. The youth who were selected for this type of program exhibited antisocial behaviors and were determined to be at high risk for juvenile delinquency. The adult inmates tasked with hosting the minors, some as young as age 11, were trained to use tactics such as open hostility, instilling fear, and menacing intimidation without actually making physical contact with the kids (Bernard & Kurlychek, 2010).

    On the surface, it seems as though such an intervention would prove effective in teaching juveniles that they do not want to end up in prison; thus, they would be “scared straight.” The research on its efficacy shows otherwise. Petrosino, Turpin-Petrosino, and Buehler (2003) conducted a meta-analysis on Scared Straight programs and found that these interventions were not only worthless in terms of reducing recidivism but actually resulted in quite the opposite: They appeared to increase recidivism by up to 70%. A follow-up study by Kim, Merlo, and Benekos (2013) showed that, when compared to at-risk juveniles who did not attend a Scared Straight program, those who did showed significantly higher recidivism rates.

    Although taxpayers were told that Scared Straight programs were a low-cost secondary inter- vention, there was an estimated cost of approximately $17,000 for each Scared Straight pro- gram participant who later recidivated. The Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (2018) has concluded that although the intervention was well-intentioned, it had dire consequences for the juvenile participants, the community, and taxpayers.

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    Section 7.5 Prevention and Intervention for Juvenile Offenders

    Tertiary Intervention Tertiary interventions can best be thought of as intensive psychosocial treatment interven- tions. The focus of treatment interventions is to solve problems that have already arisen, such as juvenile delinquency.

    A treatment approach is used when juveniles have been adjudicated delinquent but could perhaps benefit from mental health counseling, drug treatment, or another form of inten- sive intervention. These interventions are often court mandated and represent a final effort to rehabilitate youths who have regularly committed serious and possibly violent offenses. The treatment can be inpatient but is usually on an outpatient basis due to a lack of fund- ing for maintaining residential facilities (Skeem, Scott, et al., 2014). Treatment almost always includes group, rather than individual, counseling sessions led by a qualified professional.

    It is difficult to determine the efficacy of many of these types of therapeutic interventions because, just as in secondary interventions, a lack of resources is prohibitive to collecting and analyzing data (Lipsey, Howell, Kelly, Chapman, & Carver, 2010).

    Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an evidence-based therapeutic intervention that focuses on altering negative cognitions and behaviors and teaching self-regulation skills (Beck, 2011). CBT has been well researched and proved as an effective therapeutic modality for facilitating positive attitude and behavioral change, as well as positive coping strategies in juveniles (Benjamin et al., 2011). Although CBT is considered an evidence-based intervention with strong empirical support that it improves positive coping strategies, it is important to understand that a lack of resources to directly study the impact of CBT in reducing or prevent- ing delinquency has made it virtually impossible to determine the extent of its effectiveness.

    Functional Family Therapy and Multisystemic Therapy Research has shown that treatment interventions that focus on risk, needs, and responsivity of the individual—together with family, peer, and community inclusion—have a good chance of success (Andrews & Bonta, 2007). These therapeutic interventions include intensive pro- grams such as functional family therapy and multisystemic therapy. Functional family therapy (FFT) focuses on intensive family therapy that is designed to help dysfunctional families learn to become healthy and functional (Sexton & Turner, 2010). Multisystemic therapy (MST) focuses on the individual but includes the family, peers, schools, and community (Henggeler, 2011). Each of these treatment modalities has a considerable amount of empirical support for success. For example, in a meta-analysis conducted by Baldwin, Christian, Berkeljon, and Shadish in 2012, an analysis of 24 studies on the impact of both FFT and MST showed that they were highly effective interventions in reducing delinquent behavior.

    Although it is a challenge to determine precisely what mode of intervention will be effective as well as to find the resources to fund intervention programs, research has shown that most interventions are helpful on some level. These findings support the need for juvenile justice intervention funding, including a budget for ongoing research and development of interven- tion initiatives. Given what researchers and practitioners are learning from neuroscience on

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    Section 7.6 Juveniles and Crime: A Case Study

    juvenile brain, it may be that incorporating prevention programming into educational curricu- lum at schools remains the first line of defense against the development of serious antisocial behaviors. Perhaps the philosophy of prevention and intervention programs should be rooted in the idea that juvenile brains have not yet fully developed, and thus investing in rehabilita- tive efforts that foster emotional growth and positive self-concept may prove the best strat- egy with the most successful outcome for the individual juvenile and the community at large.

    7.6 Juveniles and Crime: A Case Study On the evening of April 14, 2013, Chip and Claudia Northup went to bed peacefully. They were an elderly couple, active in their church and living an idyllic life in Davis, California. When they did not show up to church the next morning, congregants noticed. Family members called them repeatedly and became increasingly concerned when the couple didn’t answer their phone.

    Chip’s daughter decided to visit their home and was horrified to find that Chip and Claudia had been murdered in their sleep. The seasoned investigators were aghast at the savagery at this crime scene, and worse, the police had no leads. The house was not ransacked, and there were no missing valuables. It appeared that the killer had gone into the house for the sole purpose of murdering the couple.

    It took approximately 2 months before an anony- mous tipster came forward claiming that he had information about who committed the crime. The young tipster stated that his friend, 15-year-old Daniel Marsh, wanted to know what it would be like to kill someone and had confessed to mur- dering Chip and Claudia, who were his next-door neighbors. Police first brought in the tipster, Alvaro Garibay, who came forward because he feared that he would be Marsh’s next victim. Police then brought in Marsh for questioning. After about 4 hours, Marsh finally confessed to the murders of Chip and Claudia Northup.

    The interrogation revealed that Marsh was a high- functioning but troubled teenager. When Marsh was 10 years old, his mother had an affair with a woman—Marsh’s former kindergarten teacher— and subsequently left Marsh’s father in order to pursue that relationship. Marsh told police dur- ing the interrogation that he was so enraged that he wanted to kill his teacher. However, that same year, Marsh had also been honored by the Red Cross for performing CPR on his father, who had a heart attack while driving. As he entered his early teens,

    Anne Chadwick Williams/The Sacramento Bee/ Associated Press

    Fifteen-year-old Daniel Marsh, shown here at age 11, confessed to murdering his elderly next door neighbors because he wanted to know what it would be like to kill someone.

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    Section 7.6 Juveniles and Crime: A Case Study

    Marsh’s anger and depression were evident, and many mental health professionals tried to intervene.

    According to Garibay, Marsh’s mood and behavior had improved remarkably after the mur- ders. Marsh’s grades had improved, his overall demeanor was better, and he had earned the distinction of Student of the Month at his high school in the month after the murders. Marsh told police during his interrogation, “I’m not gonna lie. It felt amazing. It was pure happiness, and adrenaline and dopamine, just all of it rushing over me” (as cited in Moriarty, 2019). Marsh also told the FBI investigator in graphic detail that while the investigator was interro- gating him, he had been fantasizing about how he would kill the agent. Marsh stated that the FBI agent should not take it personally because he constantly fantasized about killing most people he met.

    Marsh’s case was not handled in the juvenile justice system. Prosecutors decided that despite the fact that Marsh was just 15 years old, his case would be transferred to the adult criminal justice system. During his trial, his defense team claimed that Marsh was legally insane and that Zoloft was at least partly to blame for the violent murders of Chip and Claudia Northup. The jury rejected the insanity defense and found Marsh guilty of two counts of first-degree murder (we’ll discuss types of homicide and sentencing in Chapter 8). The judge sentenced Marsh to 52 years to life in prison. That is, Marsh must serve a minimum of 52 years before he can be considered for parole, but he may get relief earlier than that.

    To read more about Marsh’s case and to see clips of his interrogation, visit, type “Daniel Marsh” into the search bar, and click the first link for the article titled “Could a new Calif. Law free a convicted killer when he turns 25?”

    Legislation In 2018 California governor Jerry Brown signed into law a controversial piece of legislation prohibiting the transfer to adult court of any juvenile under age 16, regardless of the seri- ousness of the crime. If Marsh’s legal team gets its way, Marsh’s case will be retroactively remanded to juvenile court for adjudication, meaning that even if Marsh receives the maxi- mum juvenile sentence, he will be eligible for release at age 25.

    Analysis Marsh’s case highlights that juvenile brain cannot and does not account completely for juve- nile criminal behavior. In Marsh’s case, there was evidence of mental illness—including being involuntarily committed to a mental health facility after multiple suicide attempts and threats of homicidal violence prior to actually committing the murders. As you’ve learned in Chapters 2 and 3, seriously mentally ill individuals are more likely to be victims of crime than they are to be perpetrators, but there are exceptions, such as when the nature of the perpetrator’s dysfunction is psychopathy.

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    Summary and Conclusion

    Nevertheless, juveniles are considered good candidates for rehabilitation, even when diag- nosed with serious mental illness, because they are still growing and maturing both mentally and physically. Therefore, a focus on prevention programs seems to show the most prom- ise for altering delinquent behavior and keeping juveniles from becoming adult criminals (Greenwood, 2008). Had Daniel Marsh undergone treatment or been involved in a prevention program, perhaps he wouldn’t have committed this crime.

    7.7 Trends and Patterns in Juvenile Incarceration Despite the fact that relatively recent neuroscience research has shown that a lack of brain maturity has a dire impact on juveniles’ ability to make sound decisions, the United States incarcerates significantly more juveniles than any other nation in the world (Sawyer & Wag- ner, 2019).

    However, since 2005 the U.S. Supreme Court has made landmark decisions concerning how juveniles should be perceived and treated by the criminal justice system (see Graham v. Flor- ida, 2010; Miller v. Alabama, 2012; Roper v. Simmons, 2005). That is, the Supreme Court has incorporated the emerging juvenile brain science into its decision making to determine that minors, even those who commit acts of violence, must be given a meaningful opportunity for rehabilitation and to demonstrate that they have been rehabilitated. These ideas are becom- ing part of the public conscience as laws concerning juvenile delinquency prosecutions and juvenile transfer to adult courts continue to evolve. The result is a downward trend in juvenile incarceration.

    Summary and Conclusion

    There are close to 1 million juveniles arrested in the United States each year for various crimes, mostly for nonviolent offenses. Juvenile delinquents are classified as such when their behavior rises to the level of habitually committing crimes. The general perception and treatment of juvenile delinquents can be harshly punitive.

    One of the keys to understanding the psychology of juvenile criminal behavior is to examine common risk factors associated with the behavior. Moffitt’s theory of juvenile development— which includes the adolescence-limited offender and the life-course-persistent offender—is considered a developmental psychology theory, but it also encompasses all three major areas of psychology that influence human behavior: biological, social, and developmental. Though her theory has been widely supported, there are also criticisms of the separate classifications of juvenile offender.

    A dynamic area of juvenile development research is rooted in neuroscience and is often referred to as juvenile brain, which indicates the lack of a fully mature adult brain and the influence of the immature brain on the risk-taking behaviors of adolescents. Some of the fac- tors of juvenile brain are emotion-based and social pressure–based decision making.

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    Summary and Conclusion

    For those juveniles who are identified as at risk due to adverse childhood experiences such as poor economic conditions, exposure to trauma and violence, and substance abuse or other psychopathology as covered in the chapter, research shows some promising interven- tions. Primary intervention programs show the highest level of success in preventing the development of serious antisocial behaviors as children mature. However, it is a challenge to identify risk factors in children who are not yet exhibiting problem behaviors. Second- ary interventions show great promise in juveniles who are beginning to engage in antisocial behaviors. The least successful level of intervention is tertiary treatment, because these interventions are often applied when the juvenile is older, has committed serious offenses, and may have serious mental health issues, making it difficult to attain the level of success of a primary intervention designed to prevent problem behavior from developing. The best approach is early intervention.

    One of the most troubling aspects of juvenile justice is that the United States significantly outpaces the rest of the world in the numbers of young people sent to prison each year. Much of this results from transferring juveniles to adult court, but it is also due to a lack of resources devoted to developing interventions that will divert children from jail and help transform them into productive, law-abiding citizens. Resources should be funneled into research for improving existing interventions and developing new interventions as an alter- native to criminalizing juvenile behavior. This benefits the juvenile, the taxpayers, and the community at large.

    Critical Thinking Questions

    1. Define juvenile delinquency and youthful offender. What are the key features that distinguish each of these from the other?

    2. Discuss the issue of racialization of juvenile offenders. What does this term mean? Is there evidence of racial bias in the juvenile justice system?

    3. Discuss the myth of the superpredator. What were some of the issues with labeling certain teens as superpredators?

    4. Consider a 15-year-old who has been adjudicated as a juvenile delinquent. What would be the best level of treatment for this individual? What challenges exist for this level of treatment?

    5. Discuss juvenile brain. What are its features? Why does it present problems for some teenagers in managing their behavior?

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    Summary and Conclusion

    Key Terms adolescence-limited (AL) offenders Indi- viduals who offend briefly during adoles- cence. Their antisocial behavior and devi- ance are theorized to be caused by mostly sociological factors that speak to the uneven transition from child to adult status.

    cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) An evidence-based therapeutic intervention focused on altering negative behaviors and cognitions and teaching self-regulation skills.

    diversion programming The diverting of juvenile delinquents to social service pro- viders and other community services to address their underlying problems instead of sending them to juvenile court.

    functional family therapy (FFT) An inten- sive family therapy designed to help dys- functional families learn to become healthy and functional.

    juvenile brain A term used to describe the impulsive and risk-taking behavior of adolescents due to the lack of a fully mature adult brain.

    juvenile delinquent An individual under age 18 who is arrested for criminal behavior.

    life-course-persistent (LCP) offend- ers Pathological offenders with neuropsy- chological deficits and an adverse home environment.

    multisystemic therapy (MST) An intensive therapy that focuses on the individual but also includes the family, peers, school, and community in the process.

    primary intervention A form of inter- vention that can best be conceptualized as prevention programming, the primary goal of which is to build resilience.

    resilience A protective factor that rep- resents the extent to which an individual recovers quickly from difficult situations.

    restorative justice A holistic approach to justice that focuses on what harm has been done and how to repair that harm; it includes all major stakeholders, including the victims, in the process.

    secondary intervention A form of inter- vention that is aimed at treating young offenders who have had limited contact with the juvenile justice system and who have been identified as high risk for developing serious antisocial behavior patterns.

    tertiary intervention A form of interven- tion that is best conceptualized as inten- sive psychosocial treatment delivered to juvenile offenders with serious antisocial behavioral problems; involves mental health counseling.

    youthful offender A young adult who is aged 18 to 25 and thus is not eligible to be sentenced in the juvenile justice system but may be placed in a special youthful offender facility and have access to specialized inter- ventions designed to facilitate rehabilitation.

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    © 2020 Zovio, Inc. All rights reserved. Not for resale or redistribution.

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