In a recent blog posting (Ralph, 2019) I discussed the "Other Recidivism", that is nonsexual recidivism, for juveniles who sexually offended (JwSO). Caldwell's (2016) meta-analytic study of research since 2000, found low base-rates for sexual recidivism (2.75%) but nonsexual recidivism was 27.25%, 10 times higher. Steinberg, Cauffman, and Monahan (2015) studied 1,300 serious juvenile offenders and found that individuals who psychosocially mature are more likely to desist from criminal behavior. Cauffman, Skeem, Dmitrieva, and Cavanagh (2016) in assessing psychopathy found that increased psychosocial maturity was associated with decreased psychopathy scores in juveniles. Férriz Romeral, Sobral Fernández, and Gómez Fraguela (2018) in their recent meta-analytic study found that lower levels of moral reasoning were associated with juvenile recidivism generally, but a higher effect was found for older adolescents and females.
Methods to promote psychosocial maturity
The above findings are complemented by research providing evidence that specific treatment methods are associated with increasing psychosocial maturity in juvenile probation populations. Moral Reconation Therapy (MRT) promotes moral reasoning for juveniles (Little & Robinson, 1988). Two studies (Burnette, et al., 2003; Burnette, et al., 2004) showed positive changes with youth on probation using MRT, including increases in the level of moral reasoning. Brown (2016) in a more recent study using a sample of 86 offenders in Colorado found that juveniles who completed MRT treatment were 3.89 times less likely to re-offend compared to non-completers. Aggression Replacement Training (ART) (Goldstein, Glick, & Gibbs, 1998) is another treatment method with significant research which promotes prosocial maturity in probation youth. It has modules promoting social skills, moral reasoning, and anger control. Its effectiveness with juveniles on probation has been described in research studies (Goldstein, Nensén, Daleflod, & Kalt, 2005). Amendola and Oliver (2010) note that ART is a "Model Program" for the United States Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and the United Kingdom Home Office. Also, Ralph (2015a; 2015b) in three studies with ART with JwSO found beneficial outcomes on psychological measures.
A meta-analysis and review of effective practices for juveniles on probation was done by Lipsey (2009). He notes that the most effective methods associated with reduced recidivism for probation youth in rank order are approaches which utilize: 1. Counseling, 2. Skill building, 3. Multiple wrap-around services, 4. Restorative justice methods, and 5. Surveillance (structured probation supervision). The approaches that used counseling and skill building can be characterized as promoting psychosocial maturity. Kettrey & Lipsey (2018) suggested that best practices for treatment of JwSO should include interventions for the general probation population. While treatment in the eight studies reviewed was associated with reduced sexual recidivism, the effect was not statistically significant, although there was a significant treatment effect for decreased general recidivism.
This brief literature review describes that interventions to promote psychosocial maturity and moral reasoning are associated with desistance from criminal behaviors in juveniles. These treatment methods have been used with JwSO. Interventions to promote psychosocial maturity are cost-effective and can be readily implemented in most programs (Ralph, 2017). These approaches, along with supportive family, school, and neighborhood environments, can likely promote prosocial functioning not only in probation youth generally but JwSO.
Brown, B. L. (2016). The Efficacy of Juvenile Moral Reconation Therapy in Gunnison, Colorado. (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from , ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, number 10253255.
Burnette, K. D., Swan, E. S., Robinson, K. D., Woods-Robinson, M., & Little, G. L. (2003). Effects of MRT on male juvenile offenders participating in a therapeutic community program. Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment Review,12(2), 2-5.