Juvenile Criminality – Who Stops Offending and Why?

Findings from the Pathways to Desistance Study out of the University of Pittsburgh, one of the largest current collaborative longitudinal studies in the United States to follow juveniles post-adjudication, indicate that youth offenders tend to decrease their level of criminal behavior over time, no matter the intervention applied.  In the brief, Highlights from Pathways to Desistance: A Longitudinal Study of Serious Adolescent Offenders, principle researcher Edward P. Mulvey discusses other key findings of the study including,

  • less drug and alcohol use and a higher level of stability in daily life are factors that differentiate serious juvenile offenders who have stopped offending from those who continue criminal behavior;
  • recidivism is not reduced by sentencing juveniles to longer terms in institutions;
  • in the short term, drug and alcohol treatment does reduce substance abuse and criminal activity.
The study highlights the pivotal role of substance use and abuse in the criminality of juveniles. This association, while perhaps considered common knowledge for some time, illustrates the continued importance and long-term benefits of evidence-based prevention programs for youth.