Juvenile recidivism: Criminal propensity, social control and social learning theories

Bruce Watt*, Kevin Howells, Paul Delfabbro

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Juvenile delinquency is a common precursor to persistent and serious criminal behaviour in adulthood. However, many young offenders will cease offending by early adulthood. Identification of the causal factors that contribute to persistence and relinquishment in offending behaviour is essential for reducing future criminality. Risk assessment research with juvenile offenders identifies a range of significant individual and contextual factors that predict future delinquency. However, much of the research has been conducted without clear theoretical direction. Theoretical bases for risk prediction are essential in the development of effective assessment processes that accurately guide interventions with young offenders. This article reviews previous prediction studies of juvenile recidivism within the framework of criminal propensity, social control and social learning theories. The key variables for criminal propensity were age of onset, criminal history and various measures of self-control; for social control, family cohesion and academic achievement; and for social learning theory, antisocial attitudes and association with deviant peers were consistent predictors of recidivism. Such factors appear critical in assessment and treatment with young offenders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)141-153
Number of pages13
JournalPsychiatry, Psychology and Law
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2004
Externally publishedYes


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