Under the radar or under arrest: How is adolescent boys' first contact with the juvenile justice system related to future offending and arrests?

Jordan Beardslee, Sarah Miltimore, Adam Fine, Paul J. Frick, Laurence Steinberg, Elizabeth Cauffman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


This study examined the extent to which being arrested during adolescence was associated with subsequent self-reported offending and court-recorded arrests. We also examined whether the way in which the justice system processed adolescents was related to the nature of these associations. The sample included 532 boys who had been arrested ("justice-system-involved") and 99 boys who had never been arrested despite engaging in similar illegal behaviors ("no-justice-system-contact"). Data included official arrest records and youths' self-reported illegal behavior at a baseline interview and a follow-up 6 months later. To reduce group differences at baseline, we calculated matching weights with 2 dozen variables and used these weights in all analyses. Results demonstrated that the groups differed in their rate of change in self-reported offending between the 2 interviews and in their likelihood of being arrested during the study period. The no-justice-system-contact group selfreported the same amount of offending at baseline and the follow up, whereas the justice-systeminvolved youth who received the most lenient disposition (i.e., sanction and dismiss) decreased their self-reported violent, theft or property, and total offending, and the justice-system-involved youth who received the most punitive disposition (i.e., adjudication) increased their self-reported violent offending. All justice-system-involved youth were more likely to be arrested during the study period than the no-justice-system-contact youth, even after accounting for self-reported offending. Thus, even though some justice system interventions were associated with less subsequent offending, involvement with the juvenile justice system during adolescence, in and of itself, is a significant risk factor for repeated contact with the system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)342-357
Number of pages16
JournalLaw and human behavior
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2019


  • Adolescent offenders
  • Delinquency
  • Juvenile justice system-involved youth
  • Recidivism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • General Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Law


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