Friday, 14 January 2005 - 12:00 PM
This presentation is part of: Poster Session I
Juvenile Offenders and Residential Care: Moving Beyond Individual Characteristics to Understand Group Level EffectsJoseph P. Ryan, PhD, University of Illinois at Urbana - Champaign.
Purpose: Positive Peer Culture (PPC) is a practice model often employed with juvenile offenders. PPC draws heavily from theories of social psychology and is believed to prevent negative subcultures by harnessing and redirecting the power of peer influence. Despite the recognition that PPC is a group oriented approach, prior research has yet to disentangle individual and group effects when explaining important outcomes. The purpose of the current study is to investigate the factors that influence (1) length of stay in residential care and (2) recidivism following such care for adjudicated delinquent males. The research questions and specific analyses are largely informed by social psychological theories. This study is different from prior research in that both individual (youth level) and group (cottage level) characteristics are considered. Moreover, the design is longitudinal and official arrest data were used to estimate recidivism.
Method: The data used in the current study represent a sub-set of youth released from a residential program in Michigan between 1992 and 1993 (n=143). The residential program serves primarily adjudicated delinquents in a strengths based, peer group environment. Demographic data were extracted from the agency’s management information system. Recidivism was measured using official arrest data from the department of State Police. The average age at intake was 15.7 years old. African American youth comprise 67% of the sample. The average number of prior adjudications was 3.16 and the average number of prior out-of-home placements was 4.42. Data are nested. Thus, HLM is used to understand both individual and group level effects.
Results: The average length of stay in residential care was 12.17 months. Twenty-one percent of the adjudicated youth recidivate within five years. The findings indicate that length of stay and the risk of recidivism are significantly influenced by the characteristics of the group. Specifically, youth assigned to groups with chronic offenders are at an increased risk of re-offending. These groups are also associated with increases lengths of stay. Additionally, groups associated with high staff turnover experience significantly longer lengths of stay and increased risk of re-offending.
Implications: Prior evaluations of residential facilities for juvenile offenders have focused primarily on individual characteristics when attempting to explain important outcomes. The current study builds on this prior research and advances our understanding of treatment effectiveness by investigating both individual and group level effects. The findings have direct implications for practice. Specifically, program staff must understand the factors that (1) contribute to positive group norms and (1) influence critical outcomes such as length of stay and recidivism. This understanding will only contribute to the development of more effective programming for juvenile offenders.
See more of Poster Session I