Juvenile Delinquency Prevention-
What Works and What Doesn't
This bibliography contains annotations of selected works dealing with delinquency prevention from the mid 1980s to the present. It is not comprehensive; rather it is selective, emphasizing recent works on delinquency prevention. The bibliography is divided into three sections. The first includes only those evaluation studies with an experimental or quasi-experimental research design. The second group includes articles that are descriptive or predictive. Included here are longitudinal studies and analyses based on such studies, as well as descriptions of programs and evaluations in progress. The third group includes more general works, especially review articles and theoretical discussions of delinquency prevention.
The literature listed below offers clues to what works and what does not in preventing delinquency. Increasing evidence about what might work is found in longitudinal studies in criminology, developmental psychology and child development. These studies suggest a complex relationship between delinquency, child rearing practices, community social structure, and schooling. The Perry Preschool Project (Berrueta-Clement et al. 1987) is a good example. It documents the impact of early school intervention on later delinquency. Moreover, this study offers convincing evidence of the importance of early school success upon a variety of risk factors. The complex interactions between risk factors and protective factors are explored in the Hawaiian studies of Werner (Werner 1987; 1992; 1994). The importance of attachments to family & school in preventing delinquency is noted by Thomberry et al. (1991). A number of the studies listed below call for a "holistic" or an "ecological," or a "Social Development" approach to preventing delinquent behavior. All of these approaches have in common the idea that the entire social system and physical surroundings in which children live affect their likelihood of becoming involved in delinquent activities. These findings suggest that a multi-disciplinary approach to delinquency prevention and evaluation of these efforts may be necessary.
On the other hand, studies show that single-focus traditional approaches to delinquency prevention have not succeeded. This lack of demonstrated success is clearly documented in the literature. As one reviewer noted: "The literature on delinquency prevention contains considerable documentation of programs that apparently do not prevent delinquency. Among those mentioned are preventive casework, group counseling, pharmacological interventions (except for violent behavior), work experience, vocational education, probation officers, use of traditional street corner workers (whether trained or indigenous), social area or neighborhood projects, and "scaring straight" efforts (Dryfoos 1990: 145)."