Are At Risk Youth Interventions Effective?

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Are interventions with children and adolescents who are at risk of offending effective?

Child delinquency interventions are extremely vital to reduce the chance of children/adolescent committing a crime. An intervention is different strategies. With intervention programs, this is an effective way to ensure that children and adolescents don’t emerge as a chance of committing a crime. A circle of Family traits such as poor parenting skills, family size, domestic discord, child maltreatment, and antisocial parents are risk factors linked to juvenile delinquency (Derzon and Lipsey, 2000; Wasserman and Serafini, 2001). There are many key factors of why children and adolescents are susceptible to future offending ranging from low family earnings, convicted parent, leaving school early etc. Consequently, if a child with a domestic disorder, poor parenting skills etc are key factors that are involved then implementing an intervention is going to be effective in treating children from becoming delinquents. An example of this Some of the most successful intervention is the High/Scope Perry Preschool program and the Triple P Program (Positive Parenting Program) and the Elmira Early infancy project and the children risk program. These programs are family based programs which are proven to be the most effective. With other methods of interventions such as the Bobo doll experiment and the terrible twos study which indicated the initial stages of aggressive and antisocial behaviour. These interventions are helping to reduce the risk of children/adolescents from offending in the future. Children who show consistent aggressive or disruptive behaviour will head into the wrong direction of becoming a serious and violent offender. (Lober et.al 2003) 

One of the most successful intervention is The High/Scope Perry Preschool program is one of the most convincing studies of the long-term benefits of a good preschool program for young children. This program is an educational program; however, it has had positive outcomes of reducing the risk of future offending.58 African American children between the ages of 3-4 years old. Each one of the children with a risk of failing school due to the factors of coming from a low-income home and low IQ scores in which any one of these factors could potentially lead to future offending. The program ran for about two weeks. The teachers at the Perry Preschool had visited the children’s homes along with a monthly group meeting with the parents. The teachers had kept contact until they reached 27 to compare a longitudinal study of the participants that participated in the ones that didn’t. The results had shown that there were fewer arrests (7% versus 35%) this includes drug making and or dealing (7% versus 25%) (Lawrence J. Schweinhart, H. V Barnes & D. P Weikart ). The results have shown that there has been a positive outcome of the children had participated in this program. Researchers have argued that we need to identify with the preschool years or in early childhood those who run the risk of later becoming serious and chronic delinquents (Moffit, 1993). Using this program as an intervention has shown success in preventing child delinquency and identifying the problems and fixing them right from the preschool age is the most effective way to reduce the risk of future offending. The preschool period is important for preventing disruptive behaviour and eventually child delinquency (David. P Farrington). The reasons why this is important is because when child delinquency is present its vital that the issue is dealt with before they end up offending.

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 The Child-parent centre (CPC) program in Chicago (Reynolds et, al, 2001) is very much like the Perry Preschool program in the way that they both provided disadvantaged children family support whilst learning at preschool. the only difference is that the Child-parent centre program provided educational support up to the age of nine. The control group that was involved in the program had a result of fewer crime rates before the age of 18 because of this there was a reduction of arrests for crimes (17%vs.25%) violent offences (9%vs. 15%) and nonviolent offences (14%vs 19%).

 Triple P program (Positive Parenting Program) is another program that is effective in reducing disruptive behaviours that could lead to future offending later in life. This program is to prevent severe emotional, behavioural and developmental problems in children. The program targets five different developmental periods: infants, toddlers, preschoolers, primary schoolers and teenagers. Within each developmental period, the reach of the intervention can vary from being very broad (targeting an entire population) or quite narrow (targeting only high-risk children). A study was conducted by meta analyses on the effectiveness of the Triple P Program level 4 in managing the behavioural problems of/with children. The level 4 intervention is if the child has multiple behavioural issues in which are due to the deficits in parenting skills (Ireen De Graff at el 2008) The aim of the whole program was to educate mothers on child management strategies, affection, set rules etc. The results have shown that the level 4 intervention reduced the disruptive behaviours in children. Mothers of the Triple P group showed significant improvements in parenting, parenting self-esteem, and a decrease in stressors related to parenting. Women trained in Triple P also reported significantly lower rates of child’s misbehavior than women of the two-other control group.

Another family based program is The Elmira Prenatal/ Early Infancy Project. This program involved sending nurses to the homes of pregnant, unmarried women in households with low socioeconomic status. These visits began during pregnancy and continued to the end of the second year after the child’s birth. By the time the children were 15 years old, the positive impact of the visits was reflected in a decrease in children’s reports of arrests, convictions, violation of probation, consumption of alcohol, sexual activity, and running away from home (Olds et al., 1998).

A multi-modal program (Children at Risk) was assessed by Harrell, Cavanagh, and Sridharan (1999) in five sites across the United States.The intervention is to reduce as many risk factors as possible that the adolescents were exposed to in their life. The program included mentoring, education and after school activities for the children. As a result of this, the program was successful in reducing offending by 18%. With peer factors involved as well, there was a reduction in the adolescents associating with delinquents which then reduced them feeling the need to engage in criminal activity. 

Interventions are important to put into place at such an early age. Preschool is a very important time in a child’s life where preventing disruptive behaviour and child delinquency at an early age is the best time to start especially if the child has already developed aggressive behaviour.  For example, physical aggression rated by kindergarten teachers is the best predictor of later self-reported violent delinquency (Haapasalo and Tremblay, 1994; Tremblay et al., 1994). There are four primary reasons why preschool and child delinquency may be present as young as 2 years age (Keenen 2001). “The Study Group terrible twos identified evidence linking behaviour problems around age 3 with delinquency by age 13.behaviours, such as anger and physical aggression, can appear during the first year of life but often peak at the end of the second year after birth. Thus, before age 3, most children engage in behaviour that would be considered antisocial at a later age, including physical aggression. However, most children outgrow early problem behaviour. The ones who do not outgrow such behaviour are of concern here because of the increased risk that they may become child delinquents.”( David Farrington) This is an example of why interventions are important to put into place. There are four primary reasons why preschool and child delinquency may be present as young as 2 years age (Keenen 2001). Given that child delinquency can start at the age of 2 means that the preschool period is important in preventing future offending from occurring.

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A study experiment conducted by Albert Bandura called the bobo doll experiment in which studies the patterns of behavior of children. This an example of a method of an intervention that helps identify the problem to then put an intervention into place in which the Perry program would be helpful. The aim of this experiment is that if a child was to witness an adult act violently against this doll that they child would imitate the exact same way. Cumberbatch (1990) found that children who had not played with a Bobo Doll before were five times as likely to imitate the aggressive behavior than those who were familiar with it; he claims that the novelty value of the doll makes it more likely that children will imitate the behavior.  Bandura tested 36 girls and 36 boys aged 3-6 years old. They were then divided into 3 groups. Group one wasn’t exposed to anything, the second had an aggressive adult in the room and the third had a passive adult playing with the toys peacefully. Children who observe an adult who is acting violently are going to think that this kind of behavior is acceptable and that its normal to act in such way. Therefore, when placed in similar situations the child is more than likely to mimic this same type of behaviour.(Shuttleworth.M.2008)

Generations of studies in criminology show that the best predictor of future behavior. Children showing persistent disruptive behavior are likely to become serious, violent or chronic juvenile offender. Not all disruptive children will become child delinquents, and not all child delinquents will become serious, violent, or chronic juvenile offenders. However, most serious, violent, and chronic juvenile offenders have had a problem in the past with their behaviors that goes back to the childhood years (David P. Farrington, P.4 ). Because it is not yet possible to accurately predict which children will progress from severe problem behaviors to delinquency, it is better to tackle problem behaviors before they become a serious matter. For example, the bobo doll experiment and the terrible twos study. This is where interventions come into place to prevent behavior of disruptive or anti-social behavior occurs

A meta-analysis of the effectiveness of family based prevention programs. Some of the programs included in this study is the outcomes of delinquency or antisocial behavior, the evaluation used a randomized or well controlled experiment and the original sample size was 50 persons. Forty evaluations met the criteria. The family based programs had desirable affects in reducing delinquency and antisocial behavior. The total outcomes weighed a mean of 321 corresponds to decrease in offending from 50% in a control group to 34% in an experimental group. The effects on delinquency persisted in long term evaluation studies. The most effective types were the behavioral parent/training (David P. Farrington Brandon Walsh 2003). In more than 20 studies they reviewed, the Study Group found a relationship between an early onset of delinquency and later crime and delinquency. Child delinquents, compared with juveniles with a later onset of delinquency, are at greater risk of becoming serious, violent, and chronic offenders and have longer delinquency careers (Espiritu et al., 2001; Farrington, Lambert, and West, 1998; Krohn et al., 2001; Loeber, 1982, 1988; Loeber and Farrington, 1998b; Moffitt, 1993, P.4)

To conclude, interventions such as the Perry Preschool and the triple P Program, The Elmira Prenatal/ Early Infancy Project, The Child-Parent Center (CPC) and children at risk program were proven to be successful in reducing the risk of future offending by implementing family based programs . Additional evidence indicated that early family/parent training was also effective in reducing delinquency and crime in later adolescence and adulthood the bobo doll experiment and the terrible twos are an example of how delinquency behaviour can start at an early age providing early indicators of aggressive behaviour. Researches have argued that we need to identify during the preschool years or in early childhood those who run the risk of later becoming serious and chronic delinquents (Moffit,1993). Overall, the findings lend support for the continued use of early family/parent training to prevent behaviour problems. Both the CPC program and Perry preschool program, the children at risk program and Elmira Parental/Early Infancy Project was effective by the teachers visiting the children’s homes and holding meetings with the parents every month this reduced the risk of offending by them having fewer arrests. The Triple Program improved the parenting skills resulting in lower rates of their children misbehaving.  Aggression appears to be the best predictor of delinquency up to age 12. For example, physical aggression rated by kindergarten teachers is the best predictor of later self-reported violent delinquency (Haapasalo and Tremblay, 1994; Tremblay et al., 1994). Therefore, making sure that we can identify the early indicators at an early age of the child’s life such as disruptive aggressive behavior as shown in the Bobo doll experiment then using an intervention program is effective in reducing the risk of offending for children/adolescents.

References

  • Bodenmann, G., Cina, A., Ledermann, T., & Sanders, M. R. (2008). The efficacy of the Triple P-Positive Parenting Program in improving parenting and child behavior: A comparison with two other treatment conditions. Behaviour research and therapy, 46(4), 411-427.
  • Copeland, W. E., Miller-Johnson, S., Keeler, G., Angold, A., & Costello, E. J. (2007). Childhood psychiatric disorders and young adult crime: a prospective, population-based study. American Journal of psychiatry, 164(11), 1668-1675.
  • Farrington, D. P., & Welsh, B. C. (2003). Family-based prevention of offending: A meta-analysis. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Criminology, 36(2), 127-151.
  • Loeber, R., Farrington, D. P., & Petechuk, D. (2003). Child delinquency: Early intervention and prevention. Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention
  • Schweinhart, L. J. (2000). The High/Scope Perry preschool study: a case study in random assignment. Evaluation & Research in Education, 14(3-4), 136-147.
  • Shader, M. (2001). Risk factors for delinquency: An overview. US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
  • Shuttleworth, M. (2008). Bobo doll experiment. Retrieved April, 4, 2010.
  • Wasserman, G. A., Keenan, K., Tremblay, R. E., Coie, J. D., Herrenkohl, T. I., Loeber, R., & Petechuk, D. (2003). Risk and protective factors of child delinquency. Child delinquency bulletin series, 1-14.
  • Welsh, B. C., & Farrington, D. P. (2006). Effectiveness of family-based programs to prevent delinquency and later offending. Psicothema, 18(3).
  • Wilson, J. J. (2000). The high/scope perry preschool project. Juvenile Justice Bulletin, 11, 1-8.
  • Shuttleworth, M. (2008). Bobo doll experiment. Retrieved April, 4, 2010.

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