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All individuals in society are currently affected by juvenile crime because it not only affects the victims and the perpetrators, but also their parents, neighbors and families. This is especially the case considering that while the rates of delinquency have been steadily decreasing over the years, the current rates are still too high. Numerous programs have been initiated to ensure that these rates are decreased but while this has been the case, there have been mixed responses. Some programs have achieved a high level of success when compared to others that have been utter failures. These programs can be considered a waste of resources because most of them do not tackle the origins of delinquency and only deal with it after the fact. Therefore, it is important that the efficacy of the different programs are determined in order to make sure that there is the advancement of a situation where only the most effective are allowed to continue running while the rest are cancelled. Studies have shown that the most effective programs are those that are initiated before the onset of delinquent behaviour because they ensure that this behaviour is prevented. By getting involved early in the lives of children, it becomes possible to ensure that there is a reduction of the possibility of future crime among them (Zagar, Busch, & Hughes, 2009, p. 282). There should be advocacy for the development of more prevention programs aimed at making sure that youth crime is prevented through early intervention.
Prevention programs tend to have an extremely positive impact on the entire population because it ensures that crimes are prevented from happening. While there have been mixed results when it comes to the different prevention programs that have been put in place, it is essential to note that the most successful tend to be those that are more comprehensive in nature. This is because these are most likely to ensure that they not only focus on one aspect of the life of a child, but all aspects that are involved with their wellbeing (Koffman et al., 2009). Early intervention and comprehensiveness are important aspects of any prevention program, and programs such as home visitation programs and Head Start have been able to show incredible results through their ensuring that the risk factors are targeted effectively so that delinquency does not develop. The success of these programs has come about because of the need to ensure that once risk factors have been lessened, it becomes possible for the problem behaviour not to occur. These programs have been able to achieve a high level of success because they take place at the early stages of the child’s development. Moreover, they focus on the holistic and general aspects of the life of the child rather than on the crime itself; helping in the advancement of a situation where the child is able to develop the positive characteristics that are essential for the positive advancement of their lives.
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Despite the lack of ways to completely make a prediction of which child will end up behaving in delinquent or criminal ways in future, a number of risk factors exist that correlate to these behaviours. Among the most significant of these risk factors are abusive and violent families, fetal substance exposure, and prenatal difficulties, all of which have come to be related to poorer executive functioning. The latter weakness is significant because it ends up leading to the child displaying violent behaviour (Zagar et al., 2009, p. 281). However, while these risk factors are pertinent concerns, it is important to note that they have a more complex relationship to the problem behaviour itself rather than acting to simple increase it directly. An example of such a situation is where a child has been found to have low intelligence because this ends up increasing the risk of delinquent behaviour because the child is unlikely to perform well in school; exposing him to the potential of getting involved in crime. Some children with the above risk factors may also end up suffering from some form of mental retardation. Consequently, a child that not only has low intelligence, but is at the same time also suffering from parental abuse has the potential of having delinquent outcomes (Zigler, 1994). This means that these two aspects of childhood development have to be handled as early as possible to ensure that there is the prevention of potential criminal behaviour as swiftly as possible.
Another risk factor that has to be considered when it comes to the prevention of youth crime through early intervention is the socioeconomic status of the child involved. This is an essential aspect of prevention because it ensures that there are interventions in place that put into consideration the need to make sure that there is the advancement of interests of children that come from families of low socioeconomic status (Reynolds, Temple, Robertson, & Mann, 2001). Furthermore, these children can be helped to make sure that they are able to overcome such circumstances as distressed and unsupportive caregivers that are most likely present in unstable family environments. Studies have shown that children raised in such environments have a greater chance of developing behavioural problems than those that have been raised in environments where their caregivers are not only supportive, but also nurturing (Zigler, 1994). Therefore, under such circumstances, it is essential to note that rather than only focusing because of a single factor, it is important for preventive programs to come to the realization that a combination of factors are responsible for the development of criminal behaviours. Under such circumstances, it becomes important for the forecasting of behaviour to take into consideration a number of factors that have the potential of leading to delinquent behaviour so that action can be taken to prevent it.
Predicting Criminal Behaviour
It is essential to note that a single risk factor can hardly act as a predictor of future behaviour. Under such circumstances, it is pertinent for those running prevention programs to ensure that they look into the co-occurrence of a number of risk factors. This is because the process ensures that there is the advancement of initiatives aimed at making accurate predictions based on the increasing risk factors that a child experiences as they grow up (Zigler, 1994). The targeting of risk factors is an important way of making sure that there is the prevention of crime at an early stage. It also helps in the diffusion of those risk factors that might make a child misbehave and eventually become drawn to crime. Instead, the diffusion process helps in making sure that the child has less and less reason to move away from the norm and get involved in crime. Moreover, there is a lesser chance of crime because prevention programs promote good parenting, which provides children with a diversity of skills that they can use for the rest of their lives (Okado & Bierman, 2015). Skills such as impulse regulation and empathy are extremely important when it comes to ensuring that the early intervention process is a success. This is because when these skills are lacking, the risk of a child getting involved in criminal behaviour in their adolescence increases significantly. The regulation of emotions is another important skill that parents can impart in their children because the lack of it can also act as a predictor of future delinquency (Olds et al., 1998). Such skills have to be instilled at an early stage in the development of children because they help in making them more sensitive when it comes to keeping themselves from delinquency or criminal activities.
Recent research has shown that there is a relationship between antisocial behaviour and impulse control and self-regulation. This is especially the case when it comes to anger and aggressiveness (Olds et al., 1998). These factors are often accompanied by others and these have to be monitored at all times so that there is a means of preventing them from developing into undesirable social behaviours. Among these are the following:
- Increased economic difficulties that might lead to a lack of a nurturing environment
- Parental depression
- Negative peer relations which often lead to acting on impulse
- Neurodevelopmental impairment that is combined with other risk factors
- Child maltreatment and rejecting parenting (Thornberry et al., 2014)
- Dysfunctional parenting
It is important to note that all of the above risk factors, among others, have the potential of leading to poor behaviour. This is because these factors are signs of poor parenting while at the same time being combined with such risk factors of neurodevelopmental impairment have the potential of leading to violent behaviour later in life (Welsh & Farrington, 2007). Therefore, when seeking to prevent the development of criminal behaviour, it is pertinent that programs seek to bring about the achievement of early prevention. This is to ensure that there is the removal of risk factors from children from an early stage in their lives while at helping them to come to terms with their environment through gaining greater impulse control. A result is that there is likely to be the development of effective discipline and nurturing caregiving that is a critical component in the prevention of future delinquent behaviour.
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The main focus of prevention programs should be that of ensuring that problems are tackled at the early stages of development. This is important because it ensures that the child is helped to overcome risk factors that normally begin during the maternal period (Jolliffe, Farrington, Piquero, Loeber, & Hill, 2017). One of the most significant initiatives that have been developed in promoting the prevention of early youth crime is visitation programs. Visitation programs are important because they ensure that there is a reduction of:
- Maternal substance abuse during pregnancy
- Child maltreatment
- Family size
- Closely spaced pregnancies
- Chronic welfare dependence
The negative effects of cigarette smoking on the IQ of children have been well documented and this can be effectively eliminated through frequent visits to children (Olds et al., 1998; Zigler & Trickett, 1978). The lower the child’s IQ, the more likely it is that it will end up getting involved in juvenile delinquency. Juvenile delinquency is a serious problem and it needs to receive their attention that it deserves if it is to be prevented. This is especially the case considering that even those that are not directly affected by delinquency end up being touched through the allocation of their tax money to ensuring the general safety of their communities. However, juvenile delinquency is problem that cannot be ignored and cannot be prevented through the allocation of funds with the aim of bringing about an end to the situation. Instead, it is essential that there is greater commitment to early interventions aimed at ensuring that children do not get involved in crime in the first place. Furthermore, it becomes essential to bring about a situation where there are more early intervention initiatives because these have proven to be more effective than others, which focus mainly on handling juvenile crime when it has already happened.
The major factor that has to be considered in the prevention of crime is early intervention rather than reducing crime. There should be a focus on making sure that there is the targeting of risk factors in such a way that there is an increase in the predictive aspects of delinquent behaviour (Vries, Hoeve, Assink, Stams, & Asscher, 2015). If there is a proper handling of the various risk factors involved, it becomes possible to make sure that there is a reduction of chances that future negative behaviour will take place. Consequently, there is need to ensure that there is the development of comprehensive programs that are aimed at targeting the various risk factors that children encounter at an early age in order to ensure that there is a diffusion of these risks before they have a permanent effect on the children involved. By working with the diverse aspects of children’s lives, including their environment, it becomes more likely for mitigation exercises to be launched in such a way that enhances their development in a positive manner. Moreover, a good program should involve prevention where a broad approach towards all the possible signs is implemented in order to ensure that there is success in crime prevention among youth. The initiatives that have to be considered should go along the lines of the Head Start Program and home visitation because these allow for the greater advancement of the cause of youth crime prevention.
- The Head Start Program – One of the most successful programs that have been launched to prevent youth crime is the Head Start Program, which aims at preparing children for school. This initiative further seeks to alleviate those risk factors that have the potential of bringing about delinquency (Deming, 2009). The initiative has achieved a high level of success because in addition to educational services, it has also initiated health and social services for parents. Since its creation in the 1960s, this program has been extremely successful in achieving its goals and this has been to such an extent that it has not only come to be considered an educational program, but also one that seek to make early interventions to prevent delinquency.
- Home visitation – mediating risk factors is a significant step in preventing youth crime. This is a process that can be achieved through home visitation because nurses or trained professionals have the ability to make sure that they visit the homes of low income and potential mothers and offer advice (Kitzman et al., 2010). It also becomes possible to make sure that there is the advancement of situations where there is the fostering of healthy childhood development, and promotes a set up for the future success of children through deterring them from committing crimes later in their youth.
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While the above programs have been able to advance the cause of youth crime prevention, it there is always room to ensure that even more improved initiatives are put in place. This is because research has shown that those programs that are truly successful are those that continue long after childhood in order to provide support when children become youths (Zigler, 1994; Zigler, Taussig, & Black, 1992). Such support programs for at risk youth should consider the above risk factors when promoting the mitigation process and this should be done for as long as the children involved require it.
The key to ensuring that there is the prevention of youth crime is through early intervention. Early intervention should be continued for as a long as possible because it is a means through which children can be encouraged to develop strong morals that prevent them from committing crimes. Early prevention measures are also important because they promote a healthier and morally upstanding society. However, such measures are only the beginning and it will be necessary to make sure that more research is conducted so that programs can be created to bring society closer to achieving an end to juvenile delinquency.
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