Functional family therapy.

The prevention and treatment of juvenile delinquency is a subject which must be addressed by society today. Early intervention is the best approach to preventing juvenile delinquency. Prevention requires individual, group and organizational efforts aimed at keeping adolescents from breaking the law. Also important are preventive work such as education programs, youth development and recreation activities as well as the local communities being given responsibility in dealing with juvenile delinquency.. It is also believed that the family, which is the primary institution of socialization, plays the most important role in the prevention of juvenile delinquency.

Preventing delinquency not only saves young lives from being wasted, but also prevents the onset of adult criminal careers and thus reduces the burden of crime on its victims and on society (Greenwood). To provide both widely acceptable services and targeted programs for those who need it most, preventive efforts have generally been of two types. The first type are those that focus on training parents in family management techniques, and the second are those that provide an array of supportive services such as child care and/or medical and social services to socially disadvantaged families (Mulvey)..

Primary and secondary prevention of delinquency rests on the principle of identifying individuals and environments at risk for delinquent activity before the behavior has occurred and then either removing risk factors or strengthening resistance to the risk factors. The impact of this approach depends upon the process of identifying risk factors and the choice of when and where to direct the intervention.

Only during the past fifteen years have re-searchers begun clearly identifying both the risk factors that produce delinquency and the interventions that consistently reduce the likelihood that it will occur. Some of the identified risk factors for delinquency are genetic or biological and cannot easily be changed. Others are dynamic, involving the quality of parenting, school involvement, peer group associations, or skill deficits, and are more readily altered. Ongoing analyses that carefully monitor the social development of cohorts of at-risk youth beginning in infancy and early childhood continue to refine how these risk factors develop and interact over time (.Lipsey & Derzon).

Over the past decade researchers have identified intervention strategies and program models that reduce delinquency and promote pro-social development.. It costs states billions of dollars a year to arrest, prosecute, incarcerate, and treat juvenile offenders. Investing in successful delinquency-prevention programs can save taxpayers money

Fairly strong evidence now demonstrates the effectiveness of a dozen or so "proven" delinquency-prevention program models and generalized strategies.5 somewhat weaker evidence supports the effectiveness of another twenty to thirty "promising" programs that are still being tested. Public agencies and private providers who have implemented proven programs for more than five years can now share their experiences, some of which have been closely monitored by independent evaluators ( Mihalick).

Many programs emphasize service to individual youth who have demonstrated delinquent or pre-delinquent behaviors. These programs do not give sufficient focus to family, neighborhood, and community factors that assist or support negative youth behavior. There are many prevention strategies which focus on a wide array of risk factors, such as associating with delinquent peers, school-based violence prevention programs, and working with families. These strategies must be implemented by interventions with youth, families and communities and we need to evaluate and make changes in services that are not effective. In order to help young people learn how to engage in positive self-appraisal, deal with conflict, and control aggression education programs are used. The programs expose the myth of gang glamour and help young people find alternatives to illegal behavior (Johnson).

The family is one of the most logical starting places for prevention efforts. Because of the weight of recent empirical evidence relating family functioning to various forms of adolescent antisocial behavior, and alarm at the rapidly changing demographics of U.S. families, early family intervention has received wide endorsement as a starting place for preventive intervention (Mulvey).

The most successful programs are those that emphasize family interactions, These programs focus on providing skills to the adults who are in the best position to supervise and train the child.(Greenwood). More traditional interventions that punish or attempt to frighten the youths are the least successful. For youth on probation, two effective programs are family-based interventions designated as proven by Blueprints and the Surgeon General, Functional Family Therapy (FFT) and Multisystemic Therapy (MST) (Tate et al).

Functional Family Therapy targets youth aged eleven to eighteen facing problems with delinquency, substance abuse, or violence. The program focuses on changing interactions between family members and seeks to improve the performance of the family unit by increasing family problem-solving skills, enhancing emotional connections, and strengthening the parents' ability to provide appropriate structure, guidance, and limits for their children(Alexander). It is a relatively short-term program that is delivered by individual therapists, usually in the home setting.

(MST) has shown promise as a cost-effective strategy for decreasing the number of young incarcerated offenders while reducing their antisocial behavior, and it is the only treatment to demonstrate short-term and long-term efficacy with chronic, serious, and violent juvenile offenders. .This approach works to increase family communication skills and to help the youth achieve goals in regard to community and peer functioning. The workers in this program conduct in-home meetings with the family, advocate for the adolescent in school, and get objectives like getting to a job interview met (Mulvey). MST interventions are child-focused, family-centered, and directed toward solving multiple problems across the numerous contexts in which youths are embedded: family, peers, school, and neighborhood. Services are provided in home and community settings to enhance cooperation and promote generalization. Interventions are tailored to the specific needs of the adolescent, the family, The promise of the MST approach was highlighted by the reduction in arrests and incarcerations, improved family cohesion, and other positive outcomes reported in a 1992 study of youths who were at risk for out-of-home placement because of serious criminal activity (Mulvy).

While several studies have supported the effectiveness of parent training for reducing problem behaviors of conduct disordered youth, scant evidence exists concerning its effectiveness as a primary prevention strategy.

Delinquency-prevention programs in community settings can be created for various purposes such as diverting youth out of the juvenile justice system, serving youth placed on informal or formal probation, or serving youth on parole who are returning to the community after a residential placement. Settings can range from individual homes, to schools, to teen centers, to parks, to the special facilities of private providers. They can involve anything from a one-hour monthly meeting to intensive family therapy and services (Greenwood). The most successful programs are those that emphasize family interactions, probably because they focus on providing skills to the adults who are in the best position to supervise and train the child.

The School Transitional Environmental Program (STEP) aims to reduce the complexity of school environments, increase peer and teacher support, and decrease student vulnerability to academic and emotional difficulties by reducing school disorganization and restructuring the role of the homeroom teacher. It specifically targets students at greatest risk for behavioral problems. STEP students are grouped in homerooms where the teachers take on the additional role of guidance counselor. All project students are assigned to the same core classes. Evaluations have demonstrated decreased absenteeism and drop-out, increased academic success, and more positive feelings about school (Reyes and Jason).

A research study in a small town revealed that most of the juvenile delinquent group activities were taking place around the town's only park. The town redesigned the park to create more leisure and recreational alternatives for juveniles and their parents. The amount of positive afternoon activities held in the schools and parks was also increased. The results showed that these changes let to a sizable reduction of juvenile delinquency. It is also noted that juvenile crime, including violent offences elevates right after school dismissals (World Youth).

Youth recreation programs such as the Police Athletic League, Boys' Clubs, and the Fresh Air Fund have developed over the years to provide constructive activities for youth and reduce their involvement in antisocial activity. One of the immediate benefits of recreational activities is that they fill unsupervised after-school hours. The Department of Education has reported that youths are most likely to commit crimes between 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., with crime rates peaking at 3 p.m. Recreation programs allow youths to connect with other adults and children in the community. Such positive friendships may assist children in later years. Youth programs are designed to fit the personalities and skills of different children and may include sports, dancing, music, rock climbing, drama, karate, bowling, art, and other activities. A few studies have shown a relationship between participation in organized athletic programs and lower levels of delinquent activity, particularly for working class boys. More than 20 million youths aged 6-15, participate in some form of organized, extra scholastic sports activity. This has prompted some researchers to suggest that organized sports may have considerable potential for promoting competence and preventing delinquency. (Mulvey et al.)

Reform of the juvenile justice system makes sense from all points of view.. Many states are poised to begin this work today, if for no other reason than to save taxpayer money being spent on building prisons. While it costs states billions of dollars a year to arrest, prosecute, incarcerate, and treat offenders, investing in successful delinquency-prevention programs can save taxpayers seven to ten dollars for every dollar invested, primarily in the form of reduced spending on prisons. We need to create a system that decreases the number of youth becoming delinquent in the first place and prevents those youth who do stray from becoming adult criminals. The most successful programs are those that prevent youth from enaging in delinquent behaviors in the first place, divert first-time offenders from further encounters with the justice system, and emphasize family interactions (.Donahue).

The best known school-based preventive program is Project Head Start. This program was started as part of President Johnson's War on Poverty. The goal of this program was to prevent academic problems among economically disadvantaged children by providing a broad range of social services around a creative preschool curriculum. Head Start programs should be strongly encouraged. Early intervention is imperative to help long term academic and cognitive effects in children in poverty. Head Start is a comprehensive preschool education program free to children born into poverty and also for those identified as 'high risk'. According to cost benefits analysis, Head Start not only offers benefits to participants and family, but also has been shown to be a prosperous investment to society as a whole. Evaluations of Head Start programs' impact on participants have been mixed and reflect variations in the quality of Head Start programs and in outcome measures used in the evaluations (Mulvey et al). The evidence generally suggests, however, that many Head Start programs produced short-term improvements in children's IQ and academic performance and long-term improvements in school functioning. These include less need for special education placement, less likelihood of grade retention, and greater likelihood of graduation. Additional benefits to communities and mothers of Head Start children have only recently begun to be assessed (Muvey et. al).

Evaluations of the specific effect of Head Start on preventing delinquency are insufficient, but some results demonstrate its potentially long-lasting effects on the development of delinquent behaviors and the importance of longitudinal assessments of program outcome. While the findings of this one program cannot be generalized to all preschool programs with all disadvantaged children, they do show that programs of this type may have profound impact on participants, with delinquency prevention one of the ultimate outcomes (Mulvey et al).

A youth entering the Juvenile Justice System has the opportunity to receive intervention assistance from the state. In the care of the state, a youth may receive drug rehabilitation assistance, counseling, and educational opportunities. The success of the Juvenile Justice System is measured by how well it prepares youth to re-enter the community without committing further crimes. Optimally, all juvenile detention facilities would catch youths up on their education, provide them with job training, give them the experience of living in a safe, stable environment, and provide them with assistance to break harmful habits.

Research has shown us some positive evidence that prevention programs can prevent juvenile delinquency.. There is some evidence that parent training programs can reduce the materialization of child behavior problems up to 8 years following intervention, and that structural family therapy can prevent delinquency. These interventions appear to be less successful with high risk, families with more than one problem and families of older children. For lower SES and minority families, some family support and structured preschool interventions were able to reduce the risk of delinquency many years following intervention. School programs that change teacher behavior and/or school organization seem to improve the school behavior and performance of low achievers, as do social skills and cognitive problem-solving interventions. The long-term impact of school programs on delinquency has not been established and community approaches to delinquency prevention are difficult to evaluate. The available literature points toward the importance of integrating the more successful approaches into a comprehensive strategy, rather than expecting any single approach to have a large effect.

Works Cited

  • Alexander, J., Blueprints for Violence Prevention: Functional Family Therapy. Boulder, Colo.: University of Colorado, 1998.
  • Delbert, Elliot, Blueprints for Violence Prevention (Boulder, Col.: Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence, University of Colorado, 1997
  • Donahue, E. 'Reform Juvenile Justice Programs Today"Future of Children. March 2009. <http:// futureofchildren/2009/03/reform-juvenile-justice-programs-today>.
  • Greenwood, Peter. "Cost-Effective Violence Prevention through Targeted Family Interventions," Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1036 (Dec. 2004): 201-14.
  • Greenwood, P. W., Diverting Children from a Life of Crime: Measuring Costs and Benefits (Santa Monica, Calif.: RAND, 1996).
  • Johnson, U. Gang Violence Prevention: A Curriculum and Discussion Guide. Pleasantvill, NY. Sunburst Communications. 1955.
  • Lipsey, Mark W. and James H. Derzon, "Predictors of Violent and Serious Delinquency in Adolescence and Early Adulthood," in Serious and Violent Juvenile Offenders, (Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage, 1998).
  • Mihalick and others, Blueprints for Violence Prevention Replications: Factors for Implementation Success (Boulder, Col.: University of Colorado, 2002). experiences, some of which have been closely monitored by independent evaluators.
  • Mulvey, E., Arthur, M. Reppucci, N. "The Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency: A Review of the Research" The Prevention Researcher. 4. 1997. pp1-4.
  • Reyes, O. and L. A. Jason, "An Evaluation of High School Dropout Prevention Program," Journal of Community Psychology 10 (1991): 277-90.
  • Tate, D., E. Mulvy, E. 1995. "Violent Juvenile Delinquents: Treatment Effectiveness and Implications for Future Actions"/. American Psychologist, 50, 777-781. 1995.
  • "World Youth Report 2003." Youth and the United Nations. 2003. United Nations, Web. 17 Feb 2010. .

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