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Prevention: Juveniles as Potential Offenders - Conclusion

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This review suggests that past disappointments have helped illuminate the limits of intervention. Relative to the numerous events occurring in the everyday lives of juveniles, treatments are generally weak and must be acknowledged as such. Future research must build on the demonstrated success of early childhood interventions and strong treatments for adolescents. Randomized designs (or at least matched comparisons) are absolutely critical for identifying what works in preventing juvenile offending. Although several excellent evaluations have been completed, many programs have yet to be carefully evaluated. Beyond prevention, one emerging area of research is in studying desistance or cessation from crime among young offenders. Desistance programs for young offenders mitigate the practical problems of false positive predictions and the ethical problems of subjecting nonoffenders to treatment (Uggen and Piliavin).

Delinquency prevention efforts grew more informed and less naively optimistic in the 1980s and 1990s. Researchers no longer assume that children are more malleable than "hardened" adult offenders. We know today that some well-meaning prevention efforts are ineffective and that it is difficult to identify potential offenders. Nevertheless, several prevention efforts have demonstrated their effectiveness, most notably nurse home visits (Olds, Hill, and Rumsey), high school graduation incentives (Greenwood et al.), family therapy with parental training (Sherman et al.), and programs that move families from low-income to middle-income neighborhoods (Duncan and Raudenbush).

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