Delinquent and Antisocial Adolescents in Child Welfare (2023)

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Introduction and population of interest

Juvenile delinquency has been a concern for people in all societies, both in the past and in the present. In addition, evidence from scientific studies has begun to reveal an increasingly clear connection between various individual, family, and community risk factors, antisocial and delinquent behavior in youth, and later chronic delinquency in adults (NRC, 2001). ; Pereira & Maia, 2017). . In this line, the risk of negative results in multiple domains in adulthood begins to increase. As such, concern for juvenile delinquency is not simply a criminal issue, but also a social, economic, and public health consideration.

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This article will address a specific population of interest in the field of child welfare: delinquent and antisocial youth. The age range discussed will cover the adolescent phase of childhood, defined as the age of 12-17, and the types of behavior most frequently referred to may include: crime (for example, theft, vandalism, assault , etc.), physical assault, assault, truancy, and substance use. It should be noted that this paper will focus less on extremely violent youth, such as those who commit acts of homicide or violent sexual assault, as these youth are less likely to be appropriate for the types of interventions discussed later in 'Evidence- Based Practices' of this text. The term 'delinquent' will be used to refer to a youth who has engaged in behavior that would be considered criminal if it were deliberate in the adult justice system. Since some of the behavior problems mentioned above may or may not involve illegal activities, the term "antisocial" will also be used regularly to refer to youth with chronic, severe, or violent behavior problems.

Scope of the Problem

Delinquent and antisocial youth have been studied for many decades. Generally speaking, youth who routinely exhibit pervasive and dysfunctional worrying behaviors are often simply called antisocial, deviant, or misbehaving. When it comes to more serious offenders, the term "offender" has been used consistently in the literature to refer to youth with delinquent behavior since the juvenile justice system was established as distinct and separate from adult criminal justice (NRC , 2001). In the United States and in Western societies in general, the age of adult criminal responsibility generally ranges from 16 to 18 years (Pereira & Maia, 2017). There is an additional category of crimes that only affect youth, which are known as status crimes. These are acts that are considered illegal due to the age of the offender (for example, breaking curfew, absconding, etc.) (NRC, 2001). Generally, the minimum age for trial for a juvenile offender in the United States is 10 years (NRC, 2001).

(Video) Law and Mental Health: Developmental Pathways to Antisocial Behavior in Children and Adolescents

Obtaining accurate information on the number of antisocial and delinquent youth can be challenging due to several factors. All juvenile delinquents are naturally antisocial, but not all antisocial behavior is criminal. Thus, the attempt to complete a tally of antisocial and defiant youth inevitably focuses heavily on offenders, overlooking nuanced forms of antisocial behavior that may never manifest criminally. There are several potential sources of data in juvenile delinquency research, each with advantages and limitations. Nationally available data tends to exist in one of two forms: (1) self-report surveys in which young people report their own involvement in crime, either as offender or victim, and (2) official records, such as arrest data and criminal records. trials (Williams, Tuthill and Lio 2008). As expected, the image provided by each of these sources differs.

Even so, it is possible to arrive at an imprecise understanding of the basic demographic characteristics of delinquent and antisocial youth. Previous research has shown that while both men and women engage in criminal and antisocial behavior, men tend to engage in more serious and violent crime, as well as a higher number and frequency of crime across all age groups (Huizinga, Weiher , Spirit and Esbensen, 2003). With respect to age, research has found that there is a predictable age curve for criminal behavior, where crime begins to rise in early adolescence, peaks in late adolescence, and subsides throughout adulthood. (NRC, 2001; Huizinga et al., 2003). This trend has remained stable over time and across cultural contexts (NRC, 2001). Taking ethnicity into account, Huizinga et al. (2003) point out that there are no discernible differences in the prevalence of crime between different ethnic groups throughout childhood. This begins to change in adolescence due to the increased number of minority children (Black, Latino, and other people of color [POC]) being involved in "street crime" (Huizinga et al., 2003, p. 53). However, the authors note that these rates of increase are modest and that serious or violent criminal acts remain the exception for juvenile offenders rather than the norm. Additionally, it should be noted that there are clear considerations of systemic inequality, racial profiling, and bias that are likely to contribute to statistical findings reflecting increased crime in these youth and adult populations.

There are a number of individual, family and community risk factors that research has linked to antisocial behavior and delinquency. It should be noted that association, as presented by scientific research, is not the same as causation and as such should not be considered predictive. While evidence-based projections are important for things like resource allocation or policymaking, research has found that extrapolation of youth crime trends has historically been inaccurate at best and at best. sometimes misleading and inaccurate (NRC, 2001). In considering the various elements associated with antisocial behavior and delinquency, the reader is cautioned to recognize them as commonly observed and not predictive risk factors.

Individual risk factors that contribute to the development of antisocial behavior are often understood in developmental terms. Deficits in areas such as executive functioning, sensitivity to social cues, and problem-solving skills have been associated with antisocial or aggressive behavior, as well as delayed language development (NRC, 2001). As many children start school and come into increasing contact with their age peers, most have established basic communication skills and the ability to get what they want or solve problems without using physical aggression. On the other hand, those who oppose or display limited prosocial behavior with their peers are at greater risk of experiencing peer rejection, poor school performance, and developing patterns of antisocial and delinquent behavior throughout childhood. Mental health diagnoses such as conduct disorder and ADHD have also been associated with an increased risk of developing antisocial or aggressive behavior (NRC, 2001).

Family-level factors that can contribute to the development of antisocial behavior and delinquency often stem from the structure and functioning of the family. For example, being raised in a single-parent household has been associated with an increased risk of juvenile delinquency (NRC, 2001). When viewed in isolation, this relationship fails to account for broader community-level risk factors, such as poverty, which may play an additional role in the development of antisocial or criminal behavior in youth. That being said, single parents may have a hard time providing consistent supervision or discipline to their children. In addition, if the single-parent structure has occurred due to divorce or separation of the parents, it is possible that the young person develops an adverse relationship with one or both caregivers and that the family conflict complicates healthy socio-emotional development. In their seminal text on Multisystem Therapy (MST), Henggeler and colleagues (2009) point to each of these as correlates of the family level of antisocial behavior in adolescents, in addition to other fairly intuitive risk factors, such as substance use by adolescents. of parents, of mental disorders. health or abandonment (p. 8). Broader community risk factors may include the availability of weapons or drugs in the family's neighborhood, routine violence in the community, and association of youth with other substance users or offenders, among others (Henggeler et al., 2009 ; NRC, 2001).

It was once the opinion of the broader research community that antisocial or criminal behavior had little direct impact on an individual's future beyond potential legal consequences. This perception has been revised in response to contemporary scientific studies of epidemiology, sociology, and child welfare. We now understand that physical aggression in youth can affect later parenting practices, that delinquent behavior affects social and educational well-being, contributing to markedly worse outcomes in adulthood (Krohn & Thornberry, 2003). In addition, the ongoing Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study has helped us develop a clearer understanding of the pervasive and generational consequences of childhood exposure to violence and other traumatic events. All of these considerations have implications for how we think about and approach antisocial and criminal behavior in youth.


In the United States, a separate and distinct juvenile justice system has existed for over 100 years. Unsurprisingly, the way this system works has changed many times in response to changes in the understanding of juvenile crime by research communities, as well as public perceptions and concerns about juvenile crime ( NRC, 2001; Williams, Tuthill, & Lio, 2008). The juvenile justice system, its policies and practices, and the research literature have long operated in tension between the competing goals of social welfare and social control (NRC, 2001). In many ways, our modern understanding and experience of the juvenile justice system is rooted in changes that began in the 1980s and 1990s.

It is important to note that the United States has many state and local juvenile justice systems, not a unified national vision for how to address juvenile delinquency and antisocial behavior (NRC, 2001). The original ambition of creating a juvenile justice approach was to divert young offenders from the harsh punishments of adult criminal courts. Rehabilitation was considered a more viable and higher priority option for youth. Along with this public approach, social scientists have developed various treatments to intervene and prevent juvenile delinquency and antisocial behavior from having a negative impact on the lives of young people and their surrounding communities.

Henggeler et al. (2009) note that prior to the 1970s, many of these treatments lacked strong empirical support and often focused on a narrow subset of risk factors known or believed to be associated with antisocial behavior. and crime. Thus, the results for juvenile offenders and trends in juvenile crime (both violent and nonviolent) continued to fluctuate over time, peaking in the early 1990s and steadily declining in the 2000s, with a slight improvement in the 2010s (Williams, Tuthill, & León, 2008).

Legislation and Policy

Despite the precipitous increase in theoretical and scientific social interventions for delinquent and antisocial youth from the 1970s onwards, high-profile incidents of juvenile delinquency and a seemingly unstoppable wave of violence during the 1980s and early 1980s The 1990s profoundly shaped public perceptions and fears about minors. crime in the United States. In response, many state legislators across the country have moved toward toughening punitive approaches for juvenile offenders.

Federal legislation

(Video) Prevention and reduction of delinquent behaviour of children and adolescents from risk groups

While many of the policy changes that shape the current juvenile justice landscape in the United States occurred in the 1990s or later, the most pertinent federal legislation on juvenile delinquency originated in the early 1970s. The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) was originally signed into law in 1974 and was based on four main mandates: (1) deinstitutionalization of status offenses (i.e., not make status offenses are eligible for prison terms), (2) removal of adolescents from adult detention facilities, (3) 'visual and audible' separation of juvenile offenders from any facility that houses adult offenders, and (4) reducing racial and ethnic disproportionality in juvenile justice approaches (NRC, 2001; CJJ, n.d.) . This law has been the foundation of a longstanding effort to maintain the original spirit of the United States' approach to juvenile justice. By reducing or eliminating options that allow juvenile offenders to be treated as adult offenders, the JJDPA mandates sought to ensure the proper diversion of juveniles from adult criminal proceedings to preventive and rehabilitative practices. To that end, the JJDPA was recently reauthorized in 2018 with broad bipartisan support.

Also in 2018, the federal government passed the Family First Preventive Services Act (FFFPSA) with the intent of changing how state and local governments can spend Title IV-E funds. Through the FFPSA, states, territories and tribes with an approved plan have the option to use Title IV-E funds for up to 12 months of 'preventive services' that would allow 'foster care applicants' to remain in their homes with parents or relatives (NCSL, 2019). To be approved, prevention service plans must be trauma-informed and services must be evidence-based. These evidence-based practices are endorsed by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) and are located on the newly created Title IV-E Prevention Services Information Center (

State Legislation

Despite the intentions of federal legislation such as the JJDPA, many state and local jurisdictions have moved to toughen punitive approaches for juvenile offenders. In most cases, this has been done by facilitating the transfer of juveniles to adult court, changing sentencing structures, and modifying or eliminating traditional confidentiality provisions (NRC, 2001). For example, many states have changed the minimum and maximum ages for jurisdiction to more precisely define who might be considered a “juvenile” for criminal liability purposes. In many states, including Missouri, juvenile jurisdiction only applies to 16-year-olds. This means that anyone over the age of 17 who commits a crime can be tried in adult criminal court. The maximum age for a juvenile court in Kansas is 17 years. Another example of this expansion of power resides in transfer mechanisms that allow judges to use their discretion to waive juvenile court jurisdiction in special cases, such as felonies, that have a long prior history with the juvenile court, and be close to the upper age limit. Juvenile judges have always had the option to waive jurisdiction in specific settings, however, beginning in the 1990s, many States created provisions that greatly expanded judicial discretion for this purpose. Missouri and Kansas are among 42 other states and the District of Columbia that have done so (NRC, 2001).

Local politics

Despite setbacks in juvenile protections at the state level, there are local strategies specific to the Kansas City metropolitan area that provide opportunities for the successful diversion of minors from the more formal courts. One such program is the Kansas City Juvenile Court, hosted by the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) College of Law in partnership with the Kansas City Police Department (KCPD) and Kansas City Family Court. of Jackson ("Family Court"). The Kansas City Juvenile Court acts as a departure from the traditional juvenile justice system in the form of a "peer court." The court is managed and supervised by adults who are present at the hearings (UMKC, n.d.). Juvenile court programs also exist in other local jurisdictions, such as Lee's Summit, Grandview, and Independence, as well as Olathe, Johnson County, and Topeka in the state of Kansas (NAYC, n.d.).

Evidence-Based Practices

Every day, people in the United States seek help for youth who are exhibiting pervasive criminal and antisocial behavior. While some reach a level of severity that requires a significant juvenile justice response, many can benefit from participating in empirically supported prevention and/or treatment programs. In keeping with the original intent of the juvenile justice approach, these practices are, in essence, an attempt to answer the ostensible question: what works to turn the tide on antisocial and delinquent youth? Evidence-based practice, as a process and as a type of treatment model, exists as the integration of the best research evidence, clinical experience, theoretical rationale, and client values ​​(Bertram & Kerns, 2019; IOM, 2001). . While there are several evidence-based treatment models that have shown efficacy in treating antisocial and delinquent youth, this text will focus on three of the best-supported and most-studied practices: Multisystem Therapy (MST), Functional Family Therapy ( FFT) and Brief Strategic Family Therapy (BSFT). Each practice model will be introduced through a brief program overview that also identifies the model's target population, theoretical rationale, theory of change, and program objectives. The results of relevant and formative research studies will be summarized and briefly discussed. In addition, this text will identify the program's ranking in two separate databases of evidence-based practices: the California Child Welfare Evidence-Based Clearinghouse (CEBC) and Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development (Blueprints).

CEBC uses a rating scale (1-5) to assess each practice model based on available research evidence. A lower score indicates a higher level of support for the research with a rating of 1 or 2 indicating that the practice can be termed an 'evidence-based treatment model', a rating of 3 indicating that the treatment model shows a promising efficacy and a rating of 4 or 5 indicates that the treatment model is actively counterproductive or harmful and therefore should be avoided (CEBC, n.d.). Blueprints maintains a list of treatment models categorized as Promising, Model, or Model Plus. Promising models meet their minimum certification standards, which include, in particular, the requirement for at least one randomized controlled trial (RCT) or two quasi-experimental design (QED) evaluations. The model programs meet the same standards, but have undergone two RCTs or one RCT and one QED. Model Plus programs have met an additional standard of independent replication, which means that at least one high-quality study demonstrating the desired results has been conducted by a researcher who is not a current or former member of the developer's research team. and that he has no financial interest. program support (Blueprints, n.d.).

Multisystemic therapy (MST)

Program review.El MST es un modelo de tratamiento intensivo basado en la familia y la comunidad para jóvenes antisociales y delincuentes de 12 a 17 años que tienen problemas crónicos, severos y violentos de conducta y uso de sustancias (CEBC, 2018b; Henggeler et al., 2009) . El MST se basa en teorías socioecológicas y de sistemas. Las intervenciones proporcionadas a través de este modelo se basan en un enfoque de tratamiento bien especificado y basado en la investigación, complementado con ayudas visuales, supervisión de profesionales y mecanismos rigurosos de garantía de calidad/fidelidad (Henggeler et al., 2009). Dos suposiciones principales componen la teoría del cambio de MST: (1) que los comportamientos de preocupación de los adolescentes son impulsados ​​por la interacción entre los factores de riesgo asociados con los múltiples sistemas en los que vive el joven y (2) que los cuidadores son típicamente el principal cambio de comportamiento. canal en la juventud. Manteniendo estas suposiciones juntas, el objetivo principal del MST es disminuir o eliminar la prevalencia de factores de riesgo en múltiples sistemas (es decir, familia, escuela, comunidad) para que los comportamientos preocupantes también disminuyan o sean eliminados. En última instancia, esto se logra al involucrar a los jóvenes y la familia en un contexto indígena de apoyo (es decir, familia extendida, vecinos, etc.) que fomenta el comportamiento prosocial (Henggeler et al., 2009). El MST logró una calificación de Nivel 1 a través del CEBC y logró el estado de un programa Blueprints Model Plus.

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(Video) Working With Delinquent Youth

Program results.MST is one of the most widely studied and best understood evidence-based treatment models for its target population. Since its development in the late 1970s, it has been the subject of 25 peer-reviewed published reviews, 22 of which used randomized trial designs. The developers of the MST note that its spread to date is in part because professionals, families, and participants appreciate the inherent connection between the MST theory of change, process approach, and improved outcomes for youth and families. (Henggeler, 2009). These results have continuously supported the clinical efficacy of MST as a treatment model, as well as its adaptability and success when faithfully implemented in a variety of contexts and settings.

Henggeler, Melton, and Smith (1992) conducted a randomized trial comparing MST administered in a community mental health setting with usual care for 84 juvenile offenders and their families. Youth treated by the MST had fewer arrests, self-reported crimes, and spent fewer weeks incarcerated, on average over a 5-year follow-up. Families in the MST condition also reported increased family cohesion and decreased youthful aggression in peer relationships.

Borduin and colleagues (1995) examined the long-term effects of MST compared with individual therapy for the prevention of delinquent behavior among 176 juvenile offenders. The results showed that MST was more effective than individual therapy in improving key family dynamics that contribute to the development of antisocial behavior. Additionally, the 4-year follow-up results found that MST was more effective in preventing future criminal behavior.

Timmons-Mitchell and colleagues (2006) examined the efficacy of MST in a community mental health setting compared to treatment as usual for 93 juvenile juvenile offenders and their families. Notably, this was the first independently replicated clinical trial of MST with juvenile offenders, meaning it was conducted without direct supervision from the model developers. Results showed a reduction in recidivism rates and an improvement in 4 domains of functioning as measured by the Child and Adolescent Functional Assessment Scale (CAFAS) for youth who received MST.

Ogden and Halliday-Boykins (2004) conducted a randomized controlled trial to determine if the efficacy of MST could be replicated in Norway for antisocial youth. Participants were randomly assigned to receive MST or treatment as usual. The MST was found to be most effective in reducing youth internalizing and externalizing behaviors and out-of-home placements, as well as increasing prosocial behavior and family satisfaction. This was the first MST study conducted outside of the United States and a further example of an independently replicated study. The findings of this study went a long way toward establishing the generalization of MST beyond the United States.

Functional Family Therapy (FFT)

Program review.FFT is a family intervention program for antisocial and delinquent youth between the ages of 11 and 18 who have disruptive and externalizing problems, such as physical aggression and substance use. It has been implemented with young people and their families in diverse cultural contexts during the last decades (CEBC, 2018a, Sexton & Alexander, 2000). Similar to MST, FFT is based on a strengths-based systems theory approach that is delivered in a systematic, goal-directed, multi-phase program that is supplemented by training, supervision, and fidelity/quality assurance mechanisms (Sexton & Alexander, 2000). This systematic approach is characterized by three phases of intervention: engagement and motivation, behavior change, and generalization. These phases not only provide the framework for the FFT intervention process, but also reflect its assumption that increasing parenting skills, supportive communication, and protective factors in the whole family builds the family's capacity to solve current and future problems. Similar to the MST, the FFT assumes that caregivers and the family unit in general are likely to be the main channel of behavior change for young people (Sexton & Alexander, 2000). FFT has achieved a Level 2 qualification through the CEBC and has achieved Blueprints Model program status.

Program results.Alexander & Parsons (1973) made an initial evaluation of the effectiveness of the FFT. The results showed that 46 families who completed the program demonstrated significant changes in three measures of family interaction at the end of therapy and reduced relapse rates compared to another 82 families who received different forms of family therapy or no treatment. This study was an early claim that a clear description of intervention techniques informed by FFT's theory of change held clear promise for antisocial and delinquent youth and their families. Klein, Alexander, and Parsons (1977) conducted a randomized control study to examine the efficacy of FFT in comparison to three other treatment approaches for 86 juvenile offenders and their families. Results showed that FFT families showed a significant reduction in recidivism in the form of juvenile court referrals.

Hartnett and colleagues (2016) conducted a systematic review of 14 studies containing comparisons between FFT and another treatment condition for antisocial or delinquent youth and their families, 11 of which were randomized controlled trials. While the results provide general support for the effectiveness of FFT compared to other treatment methods, they also highlight the need for better defined comparison studies to further strengthen the evidence base for FFT.

One such study would be Gottfredson and colleagues (2018), who conducted a randomized controlled trial to evaluate the use of FFT as adapted for use with gang-involved or gang-at-risk youth. Uniquely, this study also aimed to assess the feasibility and potential benefits of implementing the FFT through Medicaid funding, as the model has been adapted for use with low-income families. The results showed that a greater number of people in treatment were able to receive services and the cost per youth attended was also lower for people in treatment. In addition, more youth in the comparison group were placed in residential treatment than youth involved with FFT. This study provides valuable support for the use of FFTs with antisocial or delinquent youth, especially those from low-income families, as these families generally exhibit a greater number of common risk factors associated with later development of delinquency and delinquency. adult criminal behavior. Faithful implementation of FFT through a public funding source such as Medicaid has shown notable cost savings due to the avoidance of more expensive services and expected future savings due to reduced out-of-home placements and service recurrence.

(Video) Multisystemic Therapy (MST) for At-Risk Youth and Juveniles Informational Webinar

Brief Strategic Family Therapy (BSFT)

Program review.The BSFT is a brief intervention used to treat adolescent drug use and other behavior problems common to antisocial and delinquent youth (CEBC, 2017). It has been used as a prevention and intervention strategy and has been implemented with Latino, Black, and White families (BSFT, n.d.). It should be noted that the BSFT was initially designed for use specifically with Cuban immigrant families in Miami, Florida (Szapocznik, Schwartz, Muir, & Brown, 2012, p. 135) before being tested in other demographic and geographic contexts. BSFT is firmly rooted in family systems theory (CEBC, 2017), while reflecting the value base of family connection that was seen as a focal priority in this local immigrant population for which it was initially developed (Szapocznik et al. al., 2012, p. 135).

The BSFT believes that concerning youth behaviors are rooted in maladaptive family interactions, inappropriate or irregular family boundaries, and parental attitudes that view the youth or individual as solely responsible for family problems. As such, the BSFT operates under the assumption that changing the functioning of a family system will decrease or eliminate troubling youth behaviors while improving the overall functioning of the family system (theory of change). This focus on how interactions occur emphasizes identifying family interaction patterns and changing those that enable or encourage problem behaviors of concern (BSFT, n.d.). This conviction is also reflected in the BSFT's 'three fundamental principles': (a) that the model is a family systems approach, (b) that patterns of family interactions influence the behavior of each member of the family system, and (c) that Interventions must be focused on the present and directed towards problematic behaviors of concern in each family member (Szapocznik et al., 2012, p. 136). BSFT achieved a Level 2 qualification through CEBC, but did not meet the more stringent minimum standards for Blueprints.

Program results.The BSFT model has been evaluated in several randomized clinical trials addressing both its efficacy as a model and its implementation in various community settings.

Szapocznik and colleagues (1989) conducted a randomized clinical trial comparing BSFT with individual psychodynamic therapy or a recreational control condition with Cuban children 6-11 years of age presenting with behavioral and emotional dysfunction. Results showed that both BSFT and individual psychotherapy were equally effective compared to the control condition in reducing children's behavioral and emotional concerns for at least 12 months after treatment. Furthermore, at 1-year follow-up, BSFT was associated with significant improvements in independently assessed family functioning, whereas individual psychotherapy was associated with deterioration in family functioning.

Santisteban and colleagues (2003) evaluated the effectiveness of BSFT compared to group treatment with Latino and antisocial drug-using youth and their families. Results showed that BSFT families showed significantly greater improvement before and after the intervention in parental reports of delinquency and behavior problems, adolescent self-reports of substance use, and ratings of family functioning.

Robbins and others. (2011) expanded the scope of previous efficacy research by conducting a multi-site, multi-ethnic randomized clinical trial comparing BSFT to usual care in community outpatient substance use programs. Results showed no significant difference between conditions for youth self-reported substance use, although the mean number of days of self-reported substance use was higher for treatment as habitual youth. This may have happened because the BSFT has been shown to be more effective in engaging and retaining family members in treatment and in improving parental reports of overall family functioning.

Readers will note that these results are modest compared to previous research on the efficacy of BSFT. This has been the case in other implementation studies that have revealed common challenges and barriers that BSFT and many similar treatment programs faced when attempting to implement the treatment protocol in larger community settings (Szapocznik et al., 2015; Lebensohn-Chialvo, Rohrbaugh and Hasler, 2018). As a result, the model developers also developed the BSFT Implementation Model, which employs a systems approach analogous to program intervention elements and activities to work directly with agencies and entire organizations to achieve successful implementation (Szapocznik et al., 2015 ). Furthermore, this deployment model fits very well with recommendations that have emerged from advances in deployment science. Further success in faithfully implementing the BSFT in real-world community settings is likely to increase its status in the aforementioned evidence-based practice registries.


This text was addressed to a specific public of interest in the field of child welfare: delinquent and antisocial youngsters. Evidence from scientific research has begun to draw clear lines of connection between individual, family, and community risk factors, antisocial and criminal behavior in youth, and, later, chronic delinquency in adults; all of which increase the risk of negative outcomes in multiple domains in adulthood. Despite the fact that juvenile delinquency trends peaked in the early 1990s, many state legislators across the country have moved toward a tougher punitive approach for juvenile offenders in response to public pressure. . However, recent changes in policy and understanding of child welfare best practices have led to a greater emphasis on evidence-based practices to treat youth and families and avoid the need for clinical treatments. Evidence-based practice models, such as MST, FFT, and BSFT, are three of a growing number of well-studied, theoretically-based treatment models designed to help antisocial, delinquent, and substance-using youth and their families. .


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  • Pereira, M. B., & Maia, A. da C. (2017).Juvenile delinquency, criminality and social marginalization: social and political implications. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Bingley, UK: Emerald Publishing Limited.
  • Sexton, T.L. & Alexander, JF, (2000). Functional Family Therapy. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention: Juvenile Justice Bulletin (NCJ 184743), 1-8. Retrieved from
  • Szapocznik, J., Rio, A., Murray, E., Cohen, R. & Al, E. (1989). Structural family versus psychodynamic child therapy for troubled Hispanic children.Diary of C.
  • Szapocznik, J., Schwartz, S.J., Muir, J.A. and Brown, C.H. (2012). Brief strategic family therapy: an intervention to reduce adolescent risk behaviors.Couple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice,1(2), 134–145. must: 10.1037/a0029002
  • Szapocznik, J., Muir, J.A., Duff, J.H., Schwartz, S.J. and Brown, C.H. (2015). Brief Strategic Family Therapy: Implementing evidence-based models in community settings.Research in Psychotherapy,25(1), 121–133. doi: 10.1080/10503307.2013.856044
  • Timmons-Mitchell, J., Bender, MB, Kishna, MA, and Mitchell, CC. (2006). An independent trial of the efficacy of multisystem therapy with juvenile justice youth.Journal of Child and Adolescent Clinical Psychology,35(2), 227–236. doi: 10.1207/s15374424jccp3502_6
  • University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) School of Law (n.d.). Kansas City Juvenile Court. Retrieved from
  • Williams, K.R., Tuthill, L. & Lio, S. (2008). A portrait of juvenile delinquency in the United States. In itTreatment of the juvenile offender(pp. 15 to 32). New York, New York: The Guilford Press.

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(Video) Adolescent Delinquency & Peer Influence, presented by Evelien Hoeben, PhD

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What are some possible causes of antisocial behaviors during adolescence? ›

Adolescent antisocial behavior and conduct disorder is common.
A number of environmental or social conditions can increase antisocial behavior:
  • Unstable home.
  • Neglect or lack of supervision.
  • Sexual abuse.
  • Isolation from peers; few (if any) friends.
Mar 29, 2013

What are the factors that affects a child to become delinquent? ›

Family characteristics such as poor parenting skills, family size, home discord, child maltreatment, and antisocial parents are risk factors linked to juvenile delinquency (Derzon and Lipsey, 2000; Wasserman and Seracini, 2001).

What is child or adolescent antisocial behavior? ›

Antisocial behaviour in children and adolescents can be characterized by symptoms such as being verbally and physically harmful to other people, violating social expectations, engaging in behaviours such as delinquency, vandalism, theft, and truancy, or having disturbed interpersonal relationships, whereby antisocial ...

What are the 4 types of delinquent youth? ›

The four forms are delinquency among immigrants and nomadic persons, delinquency linked with organized crime, delinquency committed by children under age 14, and crime and violence involving family and friends.

What scenario is an example of antisocial behavior? ›

Examples of antisocial behaviour

noisy neighbours. graffiti. drinking or drug use which leads to people being rowdy and causing trouble. large groups hanging about in the street (if they are causing, or likely to cause, alarm and distress)

What are examples of antisocial behavior in children? ›

Antisocial behaviors (e.g., aggression toward people and animals, destruction of property, deceitfulness, theft, and serious rule violations) and related mental disorders (i.e., conduct disorder and oppositional defiant disorder) during childhood predict alcohol use disorders (AUDs) during adolescence.

What are the three causes of delinquency? ›

Poor socio-economic status, indifferent attitude of parents, feelings of inferiority, lack of attention, and many other reasons can lead to various types of psychological issues in children and adolescents.

What are the consequences of delinquent behavior? ›

The study found that delinquency was significantly associated with the likelihood of being unemployed: compared to non-delinquents, delinquents were more likely to be unemployed even after controlling for temporally prior traits and resources, human capital, and criminal justice contact.

How can we prevent children from delinquency? ›

EDUCATION – Educational and awareness programs such as programs to parents on how to behave with the children, how their behavior will leave an impact on the children, how important is interaction with their children should be conducted. And children have to be properly educated in schools about social behaviors.

What is antisocial delinquent? ›

Antisocial behavior is a broad construct that encompasses not only delinquency and crime, but also disruptive behavior of children, such as aggression, below the age of criminal responsibility.

What are the two types of antisocial behavior? ›

Nuisance antisocial behaviour is when a person causes trouble, annoyance or suffering to a community. Environmental antisocial behaviour is when a person's actions affect the wider environment, such as public spaces or buildings.

What are the effects of antisocial behavior? ›

Individuals with antisocial personality disorder often violate the law, becoming criminals. They may lie, behave violently or impulsively, and have problems with drug and alcohol use. Because of these characteristics, people with this disorder typically can't fulfill responsibilities related to family, work or school.

What is an example of delinquent behavior? ›

Running away - Leaving the custody and home of parents or guardians without permission and failing to return within a reasonable length of time. Truancy - Violation of a compulsory school attendance law. Underage drinking - Possession, use, or consumption of alcohol by a minor.

What is adolescent delinquency? ›

A "juvenile" is a person who has not attained his eighteenth birthday, and "juvenile delinquency" is the violation of a law of the United States committed by a person prior to his eighteenth birthday which would have been a crime if committed by an adult.

What are the main characteristics of delinquent behavior? ›

These factors include hyperactivity and risk-taking behavior, aggressiveness, early initiation of violence (by age 12-13), and involvement in other forms of antisocial behavior. These factors are beyond the scope of most of the present studies. However, some did look at criminal history factors.

What are the different types of antisocial? ›

Elsewhere, Millon differentiates ten subtypes (partially overlapping with the above) – covetous, risk-taking, malevolent, tyrannical, malignant, disingenuous, explosive, and abrasive – but specifically stresses that "the number 10 is by no means special ...

What is the main cause of antisocial? ›

The cause of antisocial personality disorder is unknown. Genetic factors and environmental factors, such as child abuse, are believed to contribute to the development of this condition. People with an antisocial or alcoholic parent are at increased risk. Far more men than women are affected.

What are the signs of antisocial personality in children? ›

A person with antisocial personality disorder will have a history of conduct disorder during childhood, such as truancy (not going to school), delinquency (for example, committing crimes or substance misuse), and other disruptive and aggressive behaviours.

How do you deal with antisocial behavior? ›

stay calm! remember that the person might not be aware that they are disturbing you. be aware that the person causing the problem might not be able to control their behaviour (for example, they might be ill, disabled or have behavioural problems) try to see things from the other person's point of view and be reasonable.

How do you treat antisocial behavior? ›

Psychotherapy. Psychotherapy, also called talk therapy, is sometimes used to treat antisocial personality disorder. Therapy may include, for example, anger and violence management, treatment for alcohol or substance misuse, and treatment for other mental health conditions.

What are some risk factors for antisocial behaviour? ›

Risk FactorStrength of Association in LMICs: This Review
Poor family during childhoodSmall for conduct problems
Small for violence
Low maternal educationSmall for conduct problems
Young mother at birthSmall for conduct problems
17 more rows
Mar 26, 2018

What is a delinquent behavior? ›

Delinquency. A delinquent act is a criminal act committed by a young person under the age of 16. Delinquent acts include drug offenses and crimes by young people against persons, property, and public order.

What is delinquency simple words? ›

delinquency noun (BAD BEHAVIOUR)

behaviour, especially of a young person, that is illegal or not acceptable to most people: There is a high rate of juvenile delinquency in this area.

Why is delinquency a problem? ›

delinquency. These youth are also at increased risk for mental health concerns, educational problems, occupational difficulties, and public health and safety issues.

What are the 3 types of delinquency? ›

There are three categories of juvenile delinquency: delinquency, criminal behavior, and status offenses. Delinquency includes crimes committed by minors which are dealt with by the juvenile courts and justice system.

How do you handle delinquent? ›

Dealing with a Delinquent Account
  1. Be firm but friendly. It is easy to be too nice to customers who have been given an inch but taken a mile, especially if they have a good excuse for not making payment. ...
  2. Send out reminders. ...
  3. Have a policy in place. ...
  4. Keep your invoices simple and clear. ...
  5. Make it easy for the customer to pay.
Jan 23, 2019

What are the causes and effects of delinquency? ›

Juvenile delinquency is closely related to sexual behavior, drug use, gang involvement etc. All these have a negative effect on the community because they make the community unsafe, and they make the government to spend colossal sums of money in school safety and law enforcement.

What is the best solution for juvenile delinquency? ›

Cognitive behavioral therapy can effectively reduce aggression in children and adolescents. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a problem-focused, therapeutic approach that attempts to help people identify and change the dysfunctional beliefs, thoughts, and patterns that contribute to their problem behaviors.

What is the best kind of juvenile delinquency prevention? ›

What are Effective Programs?
  • Classroom and behavior management programs.
  • Multi-component classroom-based programs.
  • Social competence promotion curriculums.
  • Conflict resolution and violence prevention curriculums.
  • Bullying prevention programs.
  • Afterschool recreation programs.
  • Mentoring programs.
  • School organization programs.

What are the biggest risk factors for juvenile delinquency? ›

Table 1 - Juvenile delinquency risk factors associated with family according to age of children and adolescents
  • Poor parental practices.
  • Parental and/or sibling criminality.
  • Anti-social parents with attitudes that support violence.
  • Family conflicts.
  • Parents with substance abuse problems.
  • Physical abuse and neglect.
Jul 26, 2022

What is an example of a juvenile delinquent? ›

Juvenile delinquents or juvenile offenders commit crimes ranging from status offenses such as, truancy, violating a curfew or underage drinking and smoking to more serious offenses categorized as property crimes, violent crimes, sexual offenses, and cybercrimes.

Who is considered a delinquent? ›

The term delinquent refers to the state of being in arrears. When someone is delinquent, they are past due on their financial obligation(s), such as a loan, credit card, or bond payments. This means a borrower's payments are not made to satisfy their debt(s) in a timely manner.

What is the most common anti social behaviour? ›

Noise from neighbours is one of the most common anti-social behaviour complaints. Sometimes people don't know they're causing a problem, so it's well worth speaking to them directly, if it is safe to do so, before you get anyone else involved.

How does anti social Behaviour affect children? ›

Children who engage in antisocial behaviour are at risk for various adverse developmental outcomes, including school drop-out, criminal behaviour, psychopathology and substance dependence (Fergusson, Boden, & Horwood, 2009; Kim-Cohen et al., 2003).

What are three behaviors of an individual with antisocial personality disorder? ›

Antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) is a mental health condition. People with ASPD may not understand how to behave toward others. Their behavior is often disrespectful, manipulative or reckless. Management of ASPD can include medication or psychotherapy.

What are the main causes of antisocial behaviour? ›

It's not known why some people develop antisocial personality disorder, but both genetics and traumatic childhood experiences, such as child abuse or neglect, are thought to play a role. A person with antisocial personality disorder will have often grown up in difficult family circumstances.

What are 3 causes of anti social behaviour? ›

Risk factors

Family history of antisocial personality disorder or other personality disorders or mental health disorders. Being subjected to abuse or neglect during childhood. Unstable, violent or chaotic family life during childhood.

What causes a child to be antisocial? ›

Trauma, neglect, and multiple disruptions in attachment relationships have a significant negative impact on a child's ability to learn appropriate interpersonal skills. In fact, many children who have had these experiences develop defensive strategies to avoid interpersonal relationships.

What are the causes of behavior disorder among youth? ›

Behavioral disorders, also known as disruptive behavioral disorders, are the most common reasons that parents are told to take their kids for mental health assessments and treatment.
What Causes a Behavioral Disorder?
  • Physical illness or disability.
  • Malnutrition.
  • Brain damage.
  • Hereditary factors.

How does antisocial personality disorder affect daily life? ›

Antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) is a mental health condition. People with ASPD show a lack of respect toward others. They don't follow socially accepted norms or rules. People with ASPD may break the law or cause physical or emotional harm to the people around them.

What are the two types of offenders in terms of antisocial behavior? ›

Moffitt proposed that there are two main types of antisocial offenders in society: The adolescence-limited offenders, who exhibit antisocial behavior only during adolescence, and the life-course-persistent offenders, who begin to behave antisocially early in childhood and continue this behavior into adulthood.


1. Crossover Youth: Implications for Research and Practice
(Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare)
2. Dr. Phil | S21 E81: How Should We Treat Juvenile Delinquents? [Full Episode] (1.16.23)
(FtV Studios)
3. Conduct Disorders in Children : Nip in the Bud
(Nip in the Bud)
4. Multisystemic Therapy for Antisocial Youth
(Professor Caleb Lack)
5. “Adolescent Text Messaging and the Development of Antisocial Behavior” - Samuel Ehrenreich
(UT Dallas Media)
6. The Only 2 Reasons a Teenager Rebels
(Dr. Fred Ray Lybrand)


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