The Discontinuity of Offending Among African American Youth in the Juvenile Justice System

Little is known about what factors contribute to African American youth desisting from offending. Participants were 3,230 moderate- to high-risk adolescents from Washington State who completed a statewide risk assessment to assess the likelihood of recidivism. Participants were screened by juvenile probation officers between 2003 and 2010. Researchers investigated whether youth possessed protective factors and whether developmental change took place after contact with the juvenile justice system. It was hypothesized that having protective factors would decrease the likelihood of recidivism and the impact of each factor would differ by gender. Findings indicate African American youth have protective factors across a range of domains. However, little developmental change occurs after contact with the juvenile justice system. Impulse control, parental supervision, and pro-social peers were important for reducing recidivism. Problem solving was more influential for African American males, while impulse control and parental supervision were more influential for African American females. Implications for practice and policy are discussed.