The Exploration of Risk and Protective Score Differences Across Juvenile Offending Career Types and Their Effects on Recidivism

Date01 January 2018
AuthorPeter Kochol,Jennifer Hedlund,Stephen M. Cox
Published date01 January 2018
Subject MatterArticles
YVJ678439 77..96 Article
Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice
2018, Vol. 16(1) 77-96
The Exploration of Risk and
ª The Author(s) 2016
Reprints and permission:
Protective Score Differences
DOI: 10.1177/1541204016678439
Across Juvenile Offending
Career Types and Their
Effects on Recidivism
Stephen M. Cox1, Peter Kochol2, and Jennifer Hedlund1
Despite an abundance of research on serious and violent juvenile offenders, few studies have linked
juvenile offending career categories to juvenile court risk assessments and future offending. This
study uses juvenile court referrals and assessment data to replicate earlier categorizations of seri-
ous, violent, and chronic offenders; to examine risk and protective score differences across these
categories; and to assess whether risk and protective score constructs differentially predict adult
criminality across these offender categories. Based on a sample of 9,859 juvenile offenders who aged
out of Connecticut’s juvenile justice system between 2005 and 2009, we found that (1) our cate-
gorization of juvenile career types mirrored earlier work, (2) comparing risk and protective factors
across and within juvenile career types identified distinct patterns, and (3) the juvenile risk and
protective assessment subscales were not predictive of adult arrests for chronic offenders but were
predictive for nonchronic juvenile career types.
juvenile offending career types, juvenile risk assessments, juvenile recidivism
Delinquency theory and research have commonly categorized juvenile offenders based on the
seriousness, violent nature, and chronicity of their offending careers (Baglivio, Jackowski, Green-
wald, & Howell, 2014; Howell, 2003a; Howell, Lipsey, Wilson, & Howell, 2014; Johansson &
Kempf-Leonard, 2009; Kempf-Leonard, Tracy, & Howell, 2001; Loeber & Ahonen, 2014; Loeber &
Farrington, 2000; Loeber, Farrington, & Waschbusch, 1998; Snyder, 1998; Vaughn & Howard,
2005; Wilson & Howell, 1993). The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s
(OJJDP) efforts in the 1980s and 1990s led to accepted research definitions of seriousness, violence,
and chronicity. Snyder (1998), in particular, empirically validated eight categories of juvenile
1 Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Central Connecticut State University, New Britain, CT, USA
2 Connecticut Judicial Branch, Wethersfield, CT, USA
Corresponding Author:
Stephen M. Cox, Central Connecticut State University, 1615 Stanley Street, New Britain, CT 06053-2490, USA.

Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice 16(1)
offenders using juvenile court data: serious, violent, and chronic (SVC); serious and violent; serious
and chronic; violent and chronic; serious; violent; chronic; and not serious, not violent, not chronic.
His analysis of court referrals supported prior self-reported delinquency research that found a small
percentage of juvenile offenders are SVC offenders, but they commit a significant amount of
juvenile crime (Hamparian, Schuster, Dinitz, & Conrad, 1978; Moffitt, 1993; Nagin & Farrington,
1992; Nagin, Farrington, & Moffitt, 1995; Wolfgang, Figlio, & Sellin, 1972).
Since the early 1990s, a significant amount of research has focused on SVC juvenile offenders.
This research has consistently found that (1) a small percentage of juveniles commit a majority of
juvenile crime (Baglivio et al., 2014; Barnes, 2013; DeLisi & Piquero, 2011; Vaughn et al., 2011;
Vaughn, Salas-Wright, DeLisi, & Maynard, 2014), (2) early age of onset of antisocial behavior leads
to an escalation of offense seriousness and longer juvenile offending careers (Ayers et al., 1999;
Baglivio, Wolff, Piquero, & Epps, 2015; DeLisi, 2006; DeLisi, Neppl, Lohman, Vaughn, & Shook,
2013; DeLisi & Piquero, 2011; Howell et al., 2014; Loeber & Farrington, 2000; Loeber, Stouthamer-
Loeber, Van Kammen, & Farrington, 1991; McCluskey, McCluskey, & Bynum, 2006; Moffitt,
1993; Nagin et al., 1995; Piquero, Brame, & Lynam, 2004; Zara & Farrington, 2013), and (3) the
number of risk factors present or the number of absent protective factors is more predictive of SVC
offending than any particular type of risk or protective factors (Borduin & Ronis, 2012; Hawkins
et al., 1998; Huizinga & Jakob-Chien, 1998; Johansson & Kempf-Leonard, 2009; Krohn, Lizotte,
Bushway, Schmidt, & Phillips, 2014; Loeber & Farrington, 2000; Valois, MacDonald, Bretous,
Fischer, & Drane, 2002; Zara & Farrington, 2013).
Despite the abundance of research on serious and violent juvenile offenders, only a few studies
have linked juvenile offending career categories to juvenile court risk assessments and future
offending. In fact, a common research recommendation has been to use juvenile court risk assess-
ments to identify risk and protective score differences between SVC subgroups and assess the
predictive value of these on recidivism (Baglivio et al., 2014; Guerra, 1998; Kempf-Leonard
et al., 2001). The current study is based upon this recommendation and contributes to the SVC
literature by using juvenile court referrals and assessments to replicate earlier categorizations of
SVC offenders, to examine risk and protective score differences across the juvenile offender cate-
gories, and to assess whether risk and protective score constructs differentially predict adult crim-
inality across these offender categories.
Literature Review
Development and Application of SVC Categories
The OJJDP established the Violent Juvenile Offender Research and Development Program in 1981
to assess the juvenile justice system’s ability to be innovative when dealing with SVC juvenile
offenders (Wilson & Howell, 1993). This initial effort led to the OJJDP Program of Research on the
Causes and Correlates of Delinquency in 1986 which consisted of three coordinated research
projects (Browning & Huizinga, 1999; Browning & Loeber, 1999; Browning, Thornberry, & Porter,
1999). These longitudinal studies of urban youth included the Denver Youth Survey (Huizinga,
Weiher, Menard, Espiritu, & Esbensen, 1998), the Pittsburgh Youth Study (Loeber, Farrington,
Stouthamer-Loeber, Moffitt, & Caspi, 1998), and the Rochester Youth Development Study (Thorn-
berry, Krohn, Lizotte, Smith, & Porter, 1998). The initiative culminated in the formation of an
OJJDP study group of experts representing different aspects of serious and violent juvenile offender
research and practice (Loeber & Farrington, 1998).
The OJJDP initiative added to existing knowledge of the causes of serious juvenile offenders and,
perhaps most importantly, synthesized juvenile research across various academic disciplines to
formulate a comprehensive strategy to address SVC juvenile offenders (Howell, Krisberg, Hawkins,

Cox et al.
Table 1. Comparison of Studies Using SVC Categories.
Loeber, Van Kammen,
& Fletcher (1996)
et al. (2001)
et al. (2014)
Source of records
Court (%)
Police (%)
Police (%)
Court (%)
Sample size of offenders
Chronic offenders who were also
violent offenders
Violent offenders who were also
chronic offenders
Serious offenders who were also
chronic offenders
Offenders who were not serious,
violent, or chronic offenders
Note. SVC ¼ Serious, violent, and chronic.
& Wilson, 1995; Loeber & Farrington, 1998; Wilson & Howell, 1993). While scholars used
the terms ‘‘serious,’’ ‘‘violent,’’ and ‘‘chronic’’ to describe juvenile offenders prior to the OJJDP
initiative, it was this initiative and its many subsequent publications that added the phrase
‘‘SVC juvenile offenders’’ to the juvenile justice vernacular and provided definitive definitions
of them.
Snyder’s (1998) work was one of the first attempts to empirically validate these categories using
juvenile court data. He analyzed 151,209 juvenile offender careers from Maricopa County, AZ, who
had ‘‘graduated’’ out of juvenile court from 1980 to 1995 (i.e., those juvenile offenders who turned
18 years old and aged out of the juvenile court system). Violent offenses consisted of at least one
juvenile court referral for murder, nonnegligent manslaughter, kidnapping, arson, violent sexual
assault, robbery, and aggravated assault. Youth were considered serious and nonviolent offenders
if they had at least one referral for burglary, serious larceny, motor vehicle theft, weapons
offenses, and drug trafficking. Nonserious delinquent offenses were simple assault, possession
of controlled substances, disorderly conduct, vandalism, nonviolent sex offenses, minor larceny,
liquor law offenses, and all other delinquent offenses (status offenses and traffic violations were
excluded). Youth were considered chronic if they had four or more referrals throughout a juve-
nile’s offending career.
Snyder’s study supported earlier findings that a small number of juvenile offenders were SVC, but
they account for a majority of referrals to juvenile court (Hamparian et al., 1978; Wolfgang et al.,
1972). Snyder found that 15% of offenders were considered chronic and accounted for 45% of all
juvenile referrals and 60% of violent referrals (Wolfgang et al. found that 18% of males were involved
in 52% of all delinquent acts). Snyder (1998) also found that 3.3% of his sample could be defined as
SVC juvenile offenders, while 17.7% were serious, 7.9% were serious and chronic, 3.2% were violent,
2.5% were chronic, 0.9% chronic and violent, and 0.7% were serious and violent. The majority of
juveniles (63.9%) referred to court...

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