First, this symposium will examine gender and racial/ethnic differences in the prevention and treatment of juvenile delinquency. All three studies have racially/ethnically diverse samples. Moreover, two of the studies are made up of predominantly female participants, with one study being solely comprised of female offenders. For example, one study examines the relationship among child abuse, having an older romantic partner, feeling threatened emotionally or physically in the relationship, and delinquency among female offenders. Girls are the fastest growing segment of the juvenile justice population (OJJDP, 2000) and they often have different problems and needs than boys. These studies will contribute to the current knowledge base regarding gender-specific programming for this population. Given the composition of the samples in the studies, this first thread serves as an overlay that cuts through the next theme, such that the second theme is explored through a gender- and culturally-sensitive lens.
Second, this symposium will address treatment/school engagement and dropout. One study uses a national sample of youth to test the influence of school engagement as a mediating factor in the relationship between child maltreatment and subsequent delinquency, and the results inform existing prevention and treatment strategies aimed at interrupting the pathway from maltreatment to delinquent behavior. A second study in our symposium uses an NIAAA-funded study to examine treatment engagement and dropout among youth of color following the delivery of an adolescent-specific version of Guided Self Change, with these results underscoring the need to remove barriers to effective treatment for minority youth. Given the well-documented finding that youth of color are at greater risk for school suspension and expulsion (Jung, 2007) school and treatment dropout and that youth of color are over-represented in the juvenile justice system, issues of engagement and dropout warrant special consideration.
Specialized treatment program need to be implemented to meet the mental health and substance abuse needs of juvenile offenders, rehabilitation program must take into account the special needs of girls, and strategies and resources must be leveraged to keep youth of color in treatment and in school. Collectively, the papers in the symposium use research findings to provide practice and policy implications for juvenile offenders faced with these challenging issues.