Predicting the transition from juvenile delinquency to adult criminality: Gender-specific influences in two high-risk samples

Kimberly A Rhoades, Leslie D Leve, J Mark Eddy, Patricia Chamberlain
Criminal Behaviour and Mental Health: CBMH 2016, 26 (5): 336-351

BACKGROUND: Most juvenile offenders desist from offending as they become adults, but many continue and ultimately enter the adult corrections system. There has been little prospective examination of which variables may predict the latter transition, particularly for women.

AIMS: Our aim was to find out, for men and women separately, what variables identifiable in adolescent offenders predict their continuation of offending into adult life.

METHODS: Participants were 61 male and 81 female youths who had been referred from the juvenile justice system for chronic delinquency and recruited into randomised controlled trials comparing Multidimensional Treatment Foster Care with group care ('treatment as usual'). All participants had attained adulthood by the time of our study. We first examined gender differences in childhood risk factors and then used Cox proportional-hazards models to estimate the relationship of potential risk factors to first adult arrest.

RESULTS: Results indicated that, for men, juvenile justice referrals alone predicted risk of any first adult arrest as well as arrest for felony arrest specifically. Each additional juvenile referral increased the risk of any adult arrest by 9% and of adult felony arrest by 8%. For women, family violence, parental divorce and cumulative childhood risk factors, but not juvenile justice referrals, were significant predictors of adult arrest. Each additional childhood risk factor increased the risk of adult arrest by 21%. Women who experienced parental divorce were nearly three times more likely to be arrested as an adult, and those who experienced family violence 2.5 times more so than those without such experiences.

CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE: We found preliminary evidence of gender differences in childhood risk factors for adult offending, and, thus potentially, for the development and use of interventions tailored differently for girls and boys and young men and young women to reduce their risk of becoming adult recidivists. Copyright © 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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