Youths in child welfare system behave better with early intervention

Jan 31, 2008

Children in the welfare system would have a better chance of staying out of trouble if their caregivers are trained in ways to prevent delinquent behavior before it festers, a new study says.

The current child welfare system emphasizes services to youths experiencing serious behavior problems, but spends less effort on preventive services, said Andrew Grogan-Kaylor, assistant professor in the University of Michigan School of Social Work and lead author of the study.

"These findings suggest the preventive services when youths first enter the child welfare system may alter the pathway to delinquent behaviors for them," Grogan-Kaylor said. He collaborated with Mary Ruffolo and Robert Ortega, both with the U-M School of Social Work, and Jenell Clarke, a doctoral student in the joint program in social work and psychology.

Although specific suggestions are not offered in the study, the authors say that caregivers could meet monthly with a social worker to discuss ways to maintain a positive relationship with their child. These sessions could address issues such as coping with stress, active listening, and communicating honestly with their child. Caregivers could also be encouraged to have regular family times with the child, such as playing board games and reading books.

To improve monitoring, caregivers could be more aware of where the children are and ask what they are doing and who they are spending time with on a regular basis. The idea of monitoring could be extended to involve group discussions with the parent-child or teens talking with other teens about their lives, the authors indicated.

The study, which looked at nearly 1,200 teens ages 11-14 years, used data from the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being. Researchers analyzed the child welfare system risk factors the youths faced living at home and the level of delinquent behaviors that occurred during an 18-month analysis.

Older youths were more likely to engage in delinquent behaviors than younger youths. Girls were less likely to engage in delinquent behaviors than boys. Race or ethnicity did not have a statistically significant relationship with engaging in delinquent behaviors, the study showed.

Compared with neglected youths, kids who were physically abused were more likely to engage in delinquent behaviors. Other forms of child maltreatment did not have a statistically significant effect on youths who acted badly, Grogan-Kaylor said.

"An important finding in our study is that race or ethnicity did not increase the likelihood of a youth engaging in delinquent behavior over time," said co-author Robert Ortega. "However, the reality is that throughout this country there is a disproportionate number of youth of color in the child welfare system. By emphasizing effective prevention interventions, we are increasing the likelihood that many of these maltreated youth will be steered away from a delinquency path."

The findings appear in the current issue of Child Abuse & Neglect.

Source: University of Michigan

Explore further: Can science eliminate extreme poverty?

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Immigrants less likely to commit major crimes, study says

Nov 05, 2013

(Phys.org) —The perception that immigrants are linked to crime in the United States is something that has existed for decades or longer. However, UT Dallas criminologist Alex Piquero says, that view is not supported by ...

Using harsh verbal discipline with teens found to be harmful

Sep 04, 2013

Many American parents yell or shout at their teenagers. A new longitudinal study has found that using such harsh verbal discipline in early adolescence can be harmful to teens later. Instead of minimizing teens' problematic ...

Adolescent boys more prone to delinquency without a father

Nov 24, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Adolescent boys are more prone to delinquency if they do not have a father figure in their lives, a University of Melbourne study has found, while adolescent girls seem unaffected by the presence or absence ...

'Orchid children' bloom, wither in response to surroundings

Jan 31, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- A UA-led study backs evidence that some children are more susceptible to adverse environmental factors than others. So-called "orchid children" bloom spectacularly in positive environments but often are at ...

Recommended for you

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Apr 19, 2014

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...

Study finds law dramatically curbing need for speed

Apr 18, 2014

Almost seven years have passed since Ontario's street-racing legislation hit the books and, according to one Western researcher, it has succeeded in putting the brakes on the number of convictions and, more importantly, injuries ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Clippers and coiners in 16th-century England

In 2017 a new £1 coin will appear in our pockets with a design extremely difficult to forge. In the mid-16th century, Elizabeth I's government came up with a series of measures to deter "divers evil persons" ...

Making graphene in your kitchen

Graphene has been touted as a wonder material—the world's thinnest substance, but super-strong. Now scientists say it is so easy to make you could produce some in your kitchen.