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Adolescent clinical, family, and legal predictors of criminal behavior

24 May 1987


This ex post factor correlational study sought to identify those delinquent adolescents likely to commit crimes following release from incarceration with the intended outcome of determining which individual clinical and family variables would assist in predicting adolescents at risk for committing serious crimes both as adolescents and adults. Independent variables included capacity of family to monitor and discipline, various forms of abuse, evidence of a thought or affective disorder, substance abuse, lower intelligence, learning disorders, attention deficit disorders, and the conduct disorders. Dependent variables included the number of offenses committed as a juvenile and as an adult, the most serious crime committed as a juvenile and as an adult, and a juvenile and adult seriousness index score derived from the total number and severity of crimes. The study examined four research questions. Summarized they are: What are the relationships between the Conduct Disorder and other individual and family variables, the number and seriousness of crimes committed as juveniles and adults, and the decision for remand? Are there individual and family variables that can predict the number and seriousness of crimes , committed as juveniles; that can predict the likelihood of remand to the adult court; and that can predict the number and seriousness of crimes committed as adults? Statistical analysis included frequency distributions, chi-square analysis, ANOVA, multiple correlation, and discriminant function analyses. Data revealed much complexity and multiplicity regarding clinical diagnostic and family variables in conjunction with the Conduct Disorder. When efforts were made to predict juvenile and adult criminal behaviors as well as likelihood of remand, the one variable that persisted in all analyses was that of the Conduct Disorder. Other variables remained in equations related to juvenile crimes, including Learning Disorder, Depression and Age of First Offense while physical and sexual abuse, and substance abuse remained in the prediction of adult crimes. The predictive formulas lend support to the idea that many factors contribute to the pattern of criminal behaviors. Implications of this study include the need for careful clinical evaluation and treatment for those clinical and family variables that respond to treatment. To the extent that these clinical and family variables remain untreated, they provide information about the likelihood of sustained criminal behaviors.


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