Many children reach adulthood without involvement in serious delinquent behavior, even in the face of multiple risks.
Although risk factors may help identify which children are most in need of preventive interventions, they cannot identify which particular children will become serious or chronic offenders.
A longitudinal study of a representative sample from high-risk neighborhoods in Denver also found a growth in the self-reported prevalence of serious violence from age 10 through late adolescence (Kelley et al., 1997).
Females in the Denver sample exhibited a peak in serious violence in midadolescence, but prevalence continued to increase through age 19 for the boys.
The study is continuing to follow these boys to see if their prevalence drops in early adulthood. (1998), using the Gluecks' data on 500 juvenile offenders from the 1940s, found that only 25 percent of them were still offending by age 32.
Much research has concentrated on the onset of delinquency, examining risk factors for onset, and differences between those who begin offending early (prior to adolescence) versus those who begin offending in midadolescence.Nevertheless, over the past 20 years, much has been learned about risks for antisocial and delinquent behavior.This chapter is not meant to be a comprehensive overview of all the literature on risk factors.A difficulty with the literature on risk factors is the diversity of the outcome behaviors studied.Some studies focus on behavior that meets diagnostic criteria for conduct disorder or other antisocial behavior disorders; others look at aggressive behavior, or lying, or shoplifting; still others rely on juvenile court referral or arrest as the outcome of interest.It has long been known that most adult criminals were involved in delinquent behavior as children and adolescents; most delinquent children and adolescents, however, do not grow up to be adult criminals (Robins, 1978).Similarly, most serious, chronically delinquent children and adolescents experience a number of risk factors at various levels, but most children and adolescents with risk factors do not become serious, chronic delinquents.There have been suggestions that early-onset delinquents are more likely than later-onset delinquents to be more serious and persistent offenders (e.g., Moffitt, 1993).There is evidence, however, that predictors associated with onset do not predict persistence particularly well (Farrington and Hawkins, 1991).Some of the samples were specifically chosen from high-risk environments.Care must be taken in generalizing this literature to girls and minorities and to general populations.