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Keywords:

  • juvenile delinquency;
  • delinquency prevention;
  • evidence-based programs;
  • family-based interventions;
  • parent training

Research Summary

Several criminological theories prioritize the role of the family in influencing juvenile delinquency, and both observational studies (Derzon, 2010; Hoeve et al., 2009; Steinberg, 2001) and experimental evaluations of family-focused interventions (Farrington and Welsh, 2005; Sandler, Schoenfelder, Wolchik, and MacKinnon, 2011) have demonstrated that parenting practices affect the degree to which children and adolescents will engage in substance use, delinquency, and/or violence. Moreover, research regarding the ability of family-focused interventions to reduce offending when implemented in “real-world” conditions is mounting.

Policy Implications

Scientific experiments are increasingly being used to identify why, for whom, and under what conditions treatments are most effective, information that Sampson, Winship, and Knight (2013) in the main article of this special issue emphasize is needed to provide assurances that programs will work when replicated in communities. Based on this evidence, should criminologists advocate for policies and practices intended to increase the dissemination of effective family-based programs? This essay contends that there is sufficient evidence to do so. To ensure that such policies produce desired reductions in juvenile delinquency, however, criminologists also must reach consensus on the evidentiary standards needed to identify “what works,” advocate for increased attention to implementation fidelity during program replication, and increase support for preventive interventions among policy makers and the public.