Delinquent behavior has been the subject of considerable research and significant strides have been made in our understanding of both the reasons and consequences of delinquent activity, as well as in evaluating the effectiveness of strategies to prevent or intervene with delinquent youths. Although delinquent behavior was once thought to be a product of “broken homes” and single parent families, family interaction styles and supportive relationships where parental monitoring of behavior is present has been found to predict delinquent behavior more powerfully than family structure.Parental monitoring, even at age five, has been found to be predictive of lower levels of delinquent behavior among teenagers. Other studies have found that being male and being involved with delinquent peers also have a great deal of influence on delinquent behaviors as well.
Academic achievement may serve as an important factor in protecting youths from delinquent behavior, as it has been shown to mediate the relationship between parental monitoring and delinquency.Students who do well in school, even without effective parental monitoring, are not significantly different from those youths who receive more effective parental discipline. Membership into a deviant peer group often plays an important role in delinquent involvement, and these friendships often serve to “train” youths how to be delinquent Deviant friendships are often marked by higher conflict and lower supportive qualities, as well as higher levels of hostility within the friendship.Although alcohol and substance use is often considered as a delinquent behavior, the relationship between substance use and delinquency may be associated with different family and peer influences. Examining research on both prevention and intervention of delinquent behavior suggests that early prevention will be more effective than interventions with identified delinquent adolescents.
Strategies focusing on prevention with young children who have been identified as at risk for future delinquent behavior have proven effective.Other effective strategies include focusing on community-based programs focusing on social skills and building connections to a community, rather than long-term stays in institutional centers. Family-focused programs, which help parents develop and maintain effective monitoring and discipline strategies have also proven effective, especially when they are sensitive to their specific environments, and involve long-term community efforts.