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Trajectories of Delinquency and the Juvenile Justice Systems Response

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Awardee County
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)
Original Solicitation

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2018, $499,996)

Under Category 2 of the Field-Initiated Research and Evaluation solicitation, OJJDP will support the extension or expansion of relevant ongoing/existing longitudinal studies to investigate the developmental trajectories of youth from childhood through adolescence into young adulthood, in terms of the onset, persistence, escalation, and desistance of delinquent/criminal behaviors and contact with the justice system. Under Category 2, OJJDP will consider awarding supplemental funding to successful applicants for an additional 2 years to continue the longitudinal data collection effort, pending successful completion of the initial year's research milestones and objectives, submission of all required deliverables, and the availability of appropriated funds.

Researchers at Northwestern University will continue and expand the Northwestern Juvenile Project, a comprehensive large-scale longitudinal study of juvenile detainees. The study sample includes 1,829 youth (1,172 males and 657 females) who were ages 10 to 18 years old when they entered the study between 1995 and 1998. The researchers sampled youth when they were initially arrested and detained at Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center in Cook County (Chicago), Illinois. Since originally recruiting the sample, the researchers have tracked and re-interviewed the youth whether they were back in their communities or incarcerated, and have obtained information on mental health service utilization. To date, the Northwestern Juvenile Project has focused on psychiatric disorders and associated problems and outcomes. Under this FY 2013 FIRE award, the researchers will add new components (including records check, and an interview module for 400 youth) to examine how trajectories of delinquency and the juvenile justice system's response affect outcomes in emerging and young adulthood. The proposed project has three goals: (1) Examine the juvenile justice system's response. Identify patterns of processing in the juvenile justice system during adolescence (ages 10-17 years): transfer to adult court, patterns of incarceration (e.g., number and length of incarcerations, time in the community between incarcerations), and conditions and perceptions of confinement (e.g., family support, perceived fairness, disciplinary methods including segregation and confinement, deviant peer association including gang membership, safety, and services). Researchers will focus on gender differences and racial/ethnic disparities that might affect successive decisions in the juvenile and adult justice systems. (2) Examine how the juvenile justice system's response affects subsequent outcomes. Assess how the juvenile justice system's response predicts the following outcomes in emerging and young adulthood: trajectories of crime, psychiatric independence, adult social role performance (e.g., education, employment, residential independence, intimate relationships, and parenting), and external-cause mortality and injury. (3) Examine how risk and protective factors moderate the relationship between the juvenile justice system's response and subsequent outcomes.

By leveraging longitudinal data already collected, the study provides an unprecedented opportunity to guide juvenile justice reform by investigating how decisions in the juvenile justice system may have unintended consequences for adolescent development and transition into adulthood. The analyses conducted under this study are intended to help establish developmentally appropriate policies in the juvenile justice system, reduce recidivism by refining understanding of risk and resilience in extremely high-risk youth, plan gender-specific interventions, and reduce disparities in the administration of juvenile justice.


Date Created: September 17, 2013