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Child Delinquency: Early Intervention and Prevention

NCJ Number
Date Published
May 2003
20 pages
Publication Series
This bulletin presents information about child delinquents and describes intervention and prevention programs that are effective in reducing delinquent behavior.
Recent high-profile cases involving very young delinquents have increased public awareness and concern regarding young offenders under the age of 13. This issue of Child Delinquency is the first in a series of bulletins that reports on this subset of youthful offenders. Key findings regarding youthful offenders under the age of 13 include the fact that the number of child delinquents seen in juvenile courts has risen by 33 percent over the past decade. Child delinquents are two to three times more likely than their older counterparts to become serious, violent, and chronic offenders. Arrests of children under age 13 increased by 45 percent for violent crimes and 156 percent for drug abuse violations between 1988 and 1997. The bulletin goes on to present research concerning how children may develop delinquent behaviors and attitudes. Researchers note that the preschool period is an important socialization stage for children. Delays in language development, temperamental characteristics, and low attachment to caregivers are all noted as risk factors for developing delinquent attitudes and behaviors in later childhood. Other risk factors include belonging to a large family, having anti-social or substance abusing parents, and being physically abused. Risk factors are further broken down into different stages of life, beginning with pregnancy and infancy and continuing through mid-adolescence. Finally, promising intervention and prevention programs are discussed, including classroom-based interventions and community interventions such as mentoring programs. Legal issues surrounding the adjudication of very young offenders are also discussed, including jurisdiction issues and the right to counsel. The bulletin concludes with a number of policy recommendations that target the early risk factors associated with young delinquency. References

Date Published: May 1, 2003