Different Pathways to Juvenile Delinquency: Characteristics of Early and Late Starters in a Sample of Previously Incarcerated Youth

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We examined the differences between early and late start juvenile delinquents in a sample of 531 previously incarcerated youth in Oregon's juvenile justice system. Data were analyzed with logistic regression to predict early start delinquency based on four explanatory variables: foster care experience, family criminality, special education disability, and socioeconomic status. Youth with foster care experience were four times more likely to be early start delinquents than youth with no foster care experience. Youth with a family member convicted of a felony were two times more likely to be early start delinquents than youth with no family felony. Implications for future research are discussed, as well as implications for practice and policy. We suggest that future studies examine differences between male and female delinquents, the effects of foster care on children, and interfamilial processes that facilitate criminal behavior. Efforts to support children and families at risk of abuse and neglect should be reexamined in light of the results of our study, which adds to the emerging knowledge base regarding the relationships between violence experienced in early childhood, and future criminal behavior.

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