Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2012, $24,999)
The purpose of this research is to understand how contact with the juvenile justice system (JJS) influences normative development and whether this contact is more detrimental for younger youth than for older youth. Though past research has examined these issues, methods limitations render the interpretation of those findings tentative. These limitations include sampling youth who are already criminal justice involved and omitting relevant control variables such as peer delinquency.
This study will address the limitations of prior studies by comparing demographically similar youth who have committed the same crimes and differ only with regard to the JJS's response (or lack thereof) to their offense. The aims of the research are to: (1) confirm empirically whether the two study groups of delinquent youth, those who are processed through the system and those who are not processed, differ in delinquent and academic outcomes; (2) investigate whether the effect of JJS contact varies by age; and (3) identify the mechanisms that JJS contact does (or does not) relate to delinquent behavior and academic outcomes.
Data for this study will come from two sources. The sample of criminal justice involved youth will come from the Crossroads Study from University of California (Elizabeth Cauffman , principal investigator). It is a three site study (PA,LA and CA) following 1200 adolescents whom have been processed by the juvenile justice system. Youth in Crossroads are eligible if they are JJS involved with specific charges (e.g. assault, battery, burglary, theft, public fighting, or vandalism), have had no prior JJS contact, speak English, and are between 13 and 17 years old. Crossroads youth will nominate peers/classmates who have never been arrested nor spent time in jail, to compose the sample of 150 no-contact youth. Official records will be used to verify that the no contact youth identified never had JJS contact. Propensity score matching will be used to pair youth in the contact group with youth in the no-contact group by matching youth on their individual probabilities of being caught based on demographic, psychosocial, and behavioral characteristics. Data will be analyzed using Generalized Linear Models to assess whether JJS contact predicts individual level academic achievement and delinquency and whether that relationship varies with age. ca/ncf