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An Ecological Model of Risk and Protection for Delinquency and Juvenile Justice Involvement Among Maltreated Youth: A Longitudinal Study

Award Information

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

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2018, $124,652)

OJJDP’s Field Initiated Research and Evaluation Program supports innovative and methodologically sound research and evaluation efforts that inform policy and practice consistent with OJJDP’s mission to advance effective delinquency prevention and juvenile justice system interventions.

A number of studies have established that exposure to childhood adversity is a significant risk factor for juvenile justice involvement. Not only do maltreated children experience abuse and neglect, but they are also more likely to experience other adversities, including community violence and caregiver and school transitions. Despite a substantial body of literature identifying the relationship between these adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and delinquency, few studies have rigorously tested whether an evidence-based, positive youth development program can mitigate the effects of childhood adversity on delinquency and juvenile justice involvement.

In this study, the researchers will use a diverse, longitudinal sample of foster care youth and an ecologically-grounded model to examine: (1) how Fostering Healthy Futures (FHF)—a mentoring and skills group intervention delivered during the pre-adolescent years—can help reduce youth delinquent behavior and involvement in the juvenile justice system, (2) whether FHF protects youth from the negative effects of childhood adversity on delinquency/juvenile justice involvement, (3) whether changes in psychosocial functioning operate as mediators of this intervention effect, and (4) whether there are gender and ethnic/racial differences in program efficacy and its mechanisms.

This study will build upon longitudinal data collected across four time-points from 426 maltreated children in foster care, ages 9-11 at baseline, who were enrolled in a rigorous randomized controlled trial of the FHF program. The participants were diverse: 47.4% female and 53.0% identifying with more than one racial/ethnic group (e.g., 50.2% Hispanic/Latino, 30.3% African American, 30.1% American Indian, and 44.4% Caucasian). Data collected from interviews with youth, caregivers, and teachers will measure ACEs, delinquency, mental health, social functioning, and emotional regulation. Administrative records will be used to measure juvenile justice involvement.

Confirmatory factor analyses will be used to determine the optimal factor structure associated with the psychosocial functioning variables. Structural equation modeling techniques will then be used to estimate longitudinal trajectories of delinquency and involvement in the juvenile justice system, treatment efficacy, the mediated moderation model that tests the mechanisms that mediate treatment efficacy, and multi-group models for gender and ethnic/racial differences.
The study will produce the following deliverables: three peer-reviewed publications, presentations, a practitioner-friendly report, an archived data set, and interim and final reports. This study will have important implications for designing culturally-relevant prevention and intervention programming during targeted developmental periods for youth exposed to extreme adversity.

Note: This project contains a research and/or development component, as defined in applicable law, and complies with Part 200 Uniform Requirements- 2 CFR 200.210(a)(14).


Date Created: September 6, 2017