Graduation Year

2006

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

Psychology

Major Professor

Ellis Gesten, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Judith Becker Bryant, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Michael Brannick, Ph.D.

Keywords

resilience, schools, externalizing behaviors, assets, interactions

Abstract

Longitudinal studies that track individuals from childhood into adulthood may be

the best method to identify risk and protective factors for crime and delinquency. The

primary goals of this study were to determine 1) the ability of risk factors identified by

the end of elementary school to predict delinquency referrals, 2) the extent to which

positive assets (promotive factors) add to the prediction of delinquency, and 3) potential

interactions between these risk and promotive factors that moderate the relationship

between risk and delinquency referrals. The final purpose was to identify gender and

racial differences in these relationships. The current study utilized archival data from a

large metropolitan Florida school district which tracked students who began kindergarten

in the 1989-90 school year for as long as they remained in the district.

After controlling for gender, race, and SES, fifth grade teacher rated externalizing

behaviors, prenatal smoking, parent marital status, and mother’s years of education

significantly predicted delinquency referrals. The biological factors birth weight and

Apgar score were not related to delinquency referrals in correlation or regression models.

Additionally, the combination of the nine potential promotive factors was found to

contribute to a significant increase in variance above that accounted for by the three

control factors and nine risk factors. The most consistently supported promotive factor

was parental acceptance/involvement. Although no interaction effects were found in the

overall model, when analyzed by gender, two significant interactions were found for

females. These interactions were between parents’ martial status and parental acceptance

involvement as well as third grade standardized reading scores and parent educational

involvement. Findings suggest that, even when using a stringent test of significance, risk

factors assessed between birth and the end of elementary school can be used to predict

the number of subsequent delinquency referrals.

In conclusion, results from this study not only identify and confirm early risk

factors for later delinquency involvement, but also implicate potential positive assets that

may buffer the impact of early risk factors. These findings can inform early intervention

programs aimed at reducing rates of juvenile delinquency, by identifying criteria for early

identification as well as components of effective prevention/intervention.

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