AN EMPIRICAL TEST OF SCHOOL-BASED ENVIRONMENTAL AND INDIVIDUAL INTERVENTIONS TO REDUCE THE RISK OF DELINQUENT BEHAVIOR*

Authors

  • DENISE C. GOTTFREDSON

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    1. University of Maryland
      Denise C. Gottfredson is an Assistant Professor at the Institute of Criminal Justice and Criminology at the University of Maryland. Her research specializations are delinquency and education. She has directed and evaluated several school-based delinquency prevention field trials, and has authored articles on the causes of delinquency.
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  • *

    This research was supported in part by a grant from the National Institute for Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions expressed are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the institute. The contributions of many people made this report possible. Ann Birdseye, Dons Coaxum, Barbara Dilligard, and Martha Stewart provided local support for the program. Gary D. Gottfredson directed the national evaluation; Joyce L. Epstein, Gary D. Gottfredson, Robert E. Slavin, and an anonymous reviewer gave advice on a draft of the manuscript; Donald Rickert, Helene Kapinos, Andrea Nuzzolo, Stuart Gavurin, Robert Kirchner, Abhijit Mazumder, and Renee Castaneda provided research assistance; and Lois Hybl provided office support. This report is based on a longer technical report from the School Action Effectiveness Study (D. Gottfredson, 1986).

Denise C. Gottfredson is an Assistant Professor at the Institute of Criminal Justice and Criminology at the University of Maryland. Her research specializations are delinquency and education. She has directed and evaluated several school-based delinquency prevention field trials, and has authored articles on the causes of delinquency.

Abstract

This report examines a school-based delinquency prevention program that combined an environmental change approach with direct intervention for high-risk youths to reduce delinquent behavior and increase educational attainment. The program involved school stafl students, and community members in planning and implementing a comprehensive school improvement effort; changed disciplinary procedures; and enhanced the school program with activities aimed at increasing achievement and creating a more positive school climate. It also provided services to marginal students designed to increase their self-concepts and success experiences and to strengthen their bonds to the school.

The program brought about a small but measurable reduction in delinquent behavior and misconduct. Students in participating schools were suspended less often, reported fewer punishing experiences in school, and reported less involvement in delinquent and drug-related activities. The environmental interventions apparently decreased delinquency and misconduct by promoting a sense of belonging in and attachment to the school and by improving the general climate and disciplinary practices in the schools. The direct interventions with high-risk students did not reduce delinquent behavior, but did increase commitment to education as indicated by rates of dropout, retention, graduation, and standardized achievement test scores. The evidence supports the conclusion that the program has promise for reducing delinquency and its risk factors for the general population and for improving educational outcomes for high-risk individuals. Implications for theory and practice are discussed.

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