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Posted: January 1st, 2020

Juvenile recidivism

Juvenile recidivism: what are the risk groups?

Juvenile recidivism refers to the repeated involvement of young offenders in sanctionable antisocial behavior (S-ASB) that violates the criminal or penal code of their country. Juvenile recidivism is a serious social problem that affects the well-being and safety of individuals and communities. Understanding the risk factors that influence juvenile recidivism can help design more effective intervention programs and policies to prevent or reduce reoffending.

According to a meta-review by Pappas and Dent (2023), intervention programs can significantly reduce recidivism for juvenile offenders, especially when they are combined with a rehabilitative program modality. However, the effectiveness of intervention programs may vary depending on the level of the criminal justice system, the characteristics of the juvenile offenders, and the type of program modality. Some of the factors that may moderate the impact of intervention programs on recidivism are:

– The level of the criminal justice system: Intervention programs may have different effects depending on whether they are delivered at the diversion, probation, or incarceration level. For example, diversion programs may have larger effects than incarceration programs because they target low-risk offenders who are more responsive to treatment and less likely to be influenced by negative peer pressure (Pappas & Dent, 2023).
– The characteristics of the juvenile offenders: Intervention programs may have different effects depending on the age, gender, ethnicity, and risk level of the juvenile offenders. For example, older, male, and high-risk offenders may benefit more from intensive and individualized programs that address their specific criminogenic needs and responsivity factors (Pappas & Dent, 2023).
– The type of program modality: Intervention programs may have different effects depending on whether they are based on cognitive-behavioral, family-based, restorative justice, or multisystemic approaches. For example, cognitive-behavioral programs may have larger effects than restorative justice programs because they focus on changing the cognitive distortions and antisocial attitudes that underlie delinquent behavior (Pappas & Dent, 2023).

One of the challenges in identifying the risk groups for juvenile recidivism is that there is no single profile of risk factors that applies to all young offenders. Rather, there are multiple and interacting risk factors that vary across individuals and contexts. However, some of the common risk factors that have been found to be associated with higher rates of recidivism are:

– Antisocial peers: Having friends or associates who engage in delinquent or criminal behavior can increase the likelihood of reoffending by providing negative role models, reinforcing antisocial norms, and exposing young offenders to criminogenic opportunities (Ortega-Campos et al., 2016).
– Age at first S-ASB: Starting to engage in S-ASB at an early age can increase the likelihood of reoffending by disrupting normal developmental processes, impairing social and academic skills, and establishing a persistent pattern of antisocial behavior (Ortega-Campos et al., 2016).
– Problems in school: Having low academic achievement, poor attendance, behavioral difficulties, or dropping out of school can increase the likelihood of reoffending by reducing educational and occupational opportunities, weakening prosocial bonds, and increasing exposure to deviant subcultures (Ortega-Campos et al., 2016).
– Criminality in family members: Having parents or siblings who engage in delinquent or criminal behavior can increase the likelihood of reoffending by transmitting genetic predispositions, modeling antisocial behavior, providing inadequate supervision or discipline, and creating a dysfunctional family environment (Ortega-Campos et al., 2016).

In conclusion, juvenile recidivism is influenced by a complex interplay of individual, family, peer, school, community, and system factors that vary across different groups of young offenders. Identifying these risk factors can help tailor intervention programs to the specific needs and characteristics of each group and enhance their effectiveness in preventing or reducing reoffending.


Ortega-Campos E., García-García J., Gil-Fenoy M.J., Zaldívar-Basurto F. (2016) Identifying Risk and Protective Factors in Recidivist Juvenile Offenders: A Decision Tree Approach. PLoS ONE 11(9): e0160423.

Pappas L.N., Dent A.L. (2023) The 40-year debate: a meta-review on what works for juvenile offenders. Journal of Experimental Criminology 19: 1–30.

Youth Involved with the Juvenile Justice System (n.d.) Retrieved from


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