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    Is delinquent behavior contagious?

    Date: 07.30.09 | by Judge Tom.

    According to a new report based on a study of at-risk boys and young adult males in Canada, the answer is yes.

    The research involved  a 20-year study of boys in kindergarten from 53 schools in the poorest neighborhoods in Montreal, Canada.  The researchers continued to interview approximately 779 boys annually until they were 17 years old. Of the 779 boys, approximately 17.6% ended up with adult criminal records by their mid-twenties.

    The study, published this month in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, concluded that impulsive boys from poor families with little or no adult supervision and deviant friends are more likely to end up in the juvenile justice system after committing criminal acts. 

    Photo by Dan Foy

    The study also concluded that once in the juvenile justice system, boys are much more likely  to become involved in the adult justice system by continuing to commit criminal acts. “The odds of adult judicial interventions increased almost seven-fold” for the boys with juvenile records as opposed to those with no record, the co-author of the report Richard E. Tremblay explained.

    The report concludes that deviant behavior is contagious and that by putting juvenile delinquents together, it creates a culture of deviance and increases the likelihood of continued criminal behavior.  Dr. Tremblay suggests prevention programs for younger kids when they are more responsive to such efforts.  He also suggests minimizing the number of juveniles together in juvenile justice programs to help prevent the contagious effect.

    Do you agree with the research findings of this study?  Do you believe that boys in the juvenile justice system who are required to go through certain programs together such as juvenile detention, classes or counseling are likely to influence each other to commit more criminal acts?  Or do you think it is helpful to talk to kids your age with similar experiences for support and understanding?

    Judge Tom

    This post was written by Judge Tom. Judge Tom is the founder and moderator of AsktheJudge.info. He is a retired juvenile judge and spent 23 years on the bench. He has written several books for lawyers and judges as well as teens and parents including the recently published 'Teen Cyberbullying Investigated' (Free Spirit Publishing). When he's not answering teens' questions, Judge Tom can be found hiking, traveling and reading.

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