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Institutional Pathways: Dynamics and Characteristics of System Service Use by Serious Adolescent Offenders

Award Information

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

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2015, $40,000)

Statement of the Problem: The juvenile justice system orders sanctions and interventions on a daily basis. Yet, we lack a systematic understanding of whether and how sanctions and interventions facilitate a process of desistance (Mulvey et al., 2004; Mulvey & Schubert, 2012). We seek to identify institutional pathways, which we conceptualize as patterns of movement through the juvenile justice and related institutions over time. We will test the association between these patterns and adult outcomes, and the mediating role of youth attachments and youth experiences and perceptions of the justice system. Findings from this study will guide intervention and service provision to increase the likelihood of a positive transition to adulthood for serious adolescent offenders.

Subjects: This project will use data from the Pathways to Desistance Study, which followed 1354 serious adolescent offenders from Maricopa County, AZ, and Philadelphia County, PA. Baseline data were collected in 2000-2003 when youth were 14-18 years old, and youth were followed for 7 years, when participants were 21-25 years old. The majority of study participants were male (86.4%), and were diverse with 20.2% white, 41.4% black, 33.5% Hispanic.

Research Design and Methods: First, we will identify institutional pathways using self-reported calendar data on service use collected by the Child and Adolescent Services Assessment (CASA). Second, we will test our hypothesis that institutional pathways characterized by fewer disruptions will be related to gainful activities, based on a monthly measure of school attendance and employment, as well as desistance from crime, based on a monthly measure of antisocial activities. Finally, we will test our hypothesis that attachments and youth experiences and perceptions mediate the association between institutional pathways and adult outcomes. We will use youth reports including involvement in community activities, parental warmth, and school attachment; staff connectedness; and perceptions of procedural justice.

Analysis: First, we will use group-based trajectory modeling to identify institutional pathways. Second, we will estimate multivariate logistic or multinomial regression models and parallel process models to examine associations between institutional pathways and adult outcomes. Third, we will test indirect effects via youth institutional experiences, youth perceptions of procedural justice, and attachment to normative social institutions.

Products, Reports, and Data Archiving: We will submit two scholarly manuscripts to peer reviewed journals and abstracts to social work and criminology conferences. Information about this study will be available to the public through the Center for Advancing Correctional Excellence! website (www.gmuace.org).

This project contains a research and/or development component, as defined in applicable law.


Date Created: September 15, 2015