Serious, violent, and chronic juvenile offenders: a systems approach

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Virginia Tech


The purpose of this research is to examine multiple variables as they relate to delinquent behavior. The dependent variable, self-reported delinquency, includes violent Index crimes (for example, robbery, aggravated assault), serious property offenses (for example, burglary, motor vehicle theft), weapons offenses (for example, carrying a handgun, shooting a gun at someone), drug dealing offenses (for example, selling marijuana, cocaine), and drug use. The sample (N = 127) is composed of male and female youths between the ages of 12 and 18 years who were detained in two different juvenile detention centers at the time of the study. As many previous self-report studies have tended to draw samples of youth not containing a significant proportion of serious, violent, and chronic offenders (for example, school-based and home-based samples), it has become increasingly important to study samples of juveniles that do contain a significant proportion of such offenders. Moreover, the research literature strongly suggests that a relatively small percentage of youthful offenders in a given community are responsible for a disproportionate share of serious delinquent acts (the so-called "chronic few").

The data were gathered via self-administered questionnaire. Path analysis is used to test an integrated model of delinquent behavior that is based on a conceptual framework referred to as the Actor, Situation, Context or ASC paradigm. From this systems framework, a theoretical model is developed that combines propositions and variables from social structural theories (in effect, social disorganization and strain) with propositions and variables from social process theories (social bond and social learning). The data generally support the basic hypotheses and the integrated model, explaining as much as 44 percent of the variance in self-reported delinquency. Implications of the multi-systemic model and the empirical findings are discussed.



juvenile delinquency, chronic offenders, drug dealing, theory integration