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Analysis of the Determinants of Juvenile Court Dispositions

NCJ Number
Juvenile and Family Court Journal Volume: 31 Issue: 3 Dated: (August 1980) Pages: 23-32
E D Poole; R M Regoli
Date Published
10 pages
In an examination of the relationship between legal and extra-legal variables in 346 juvenile case dispositions, this study found race and sex to be the most significant factors in determining whether or not the youths would receive a formal hearing.
Juvenile cases from a small southeastern city were observed for 3 years. A path model considering, both direct and indirect effects of dispositions was chosen as the research instrument. It was found that severity of disposition increased as the age, seriousness of the current offense, and socioeconomic status of the offender increased. Moreover, females and blacks were more likly to receive formal court hearings, the most serious disposition. An analysis of the absolute total effects of the independent variables indicated that sex was the most important factor determining case disposition, followed by type of offense and race. The youths' prior record had only minor impact on case disposition. Although the size of this study limits the applicability of its findings, related literature and other studies indicate that juvenile court officials exercise considerable discretion and screen juveniles for factors other than type of offense. This is due to vague judicial standards which are applied to juveniles for their own protection but operate instead in an arbitrary and unjust manner. Footnotes, diagrams, and tables are included.