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Juvenile Deliquency

Multiple factors can lead young people to engage in crime and delinquent acts, including the social environment, individual development, lack of confidence in the future and experiences of marginalisation. As a vulnerable target group, local authorities need to develop comprehensive youth policies that promote social inclusion and avoid the social, economic and political marginalisation of children and young people. Instead of perceiving young people solely as potential danger to security, policy-makers should recognise them as drivers of social progress and include them in their crime prevention strategies and programmes.

A summary of the key lessons from the research in the field of preventing juvenile delinquency is presented below.

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Key Lessons

  1. Early intervention in the life-course and the developmental trajectory of people and problems can prevent harmful activities before they occur or behaviour escalates. Similarly, building resilience and preventing the onset of problems before they intensify pays dividends for public safety.
  2. Over the past 30 years, there has been a distinct move away from solely tertiary prevention programmes, with a greater focus placed on secondary and specifically primary types of prevention.
  3. There has also been a growing focus on early childhood experiences, extending to pre- and postnatal developments, assessment and provision. This has also fostered a focus on breaking intergenerational cycles of behavioural problems, violence and abuse and targeting whole families for intervention and support
  4. In particular, developmental focused interventions have demonstrated promising results, but remain an area which could benefit from further research, with specific measures regarding prevention specific programmes and later outcomes on delinquency (and potential criminal lifestyles).
  5. Multi-risk component interventions targeted at multiple risk factors, generally appear to be more successful than single-factor interventions, but much of the data indicated that this may be a result of inadequate testing/measures for the intended behaviours.
  6. Much early intervention work and research remains premised on establishing correlations not exploring causation.
  7. There is a marked difference between North American research and the focus within Europe which emphasises limited recourse to formal criminal justice processes and institutions in addressing child and youth behaviour problems. This, in part, explains the relative lack of crime prevention specific research evidence across Europe as contrasted with the North American literature.
  8. Additionally, the literature examined here demonstrates a varying spectrum of scientific rigour concerning research design, and generally a lack of research that considers measures relating to the progression of juvenile delinquent acts or behaviours, and implications for future engagement with the criminal justice system (i.e. long-term assessments, context-specific measures, longitudinal studies).
  9. Designing broad interventions aimed at strengthening social cohesion and integration to large cohorts can have positive effects for society at large, exceeding the initial underlying intention to strengthen resilience in at-risk individuals while simultaneously minimising the risk of stigmatisation.