Date of Conferral

2019

Degree

Ph.D.

School

Psychology

Advisor

Susan Marcus

Abstract

Although reducing recidivism among juvenile offenders is an important goal of the criminal justice system and diversion programs are known to reduce recidivism, little is known about the risk factors associated with participation in diversion programs or recidivism. The purpose of this quantitative study was to identify the juvenile offender risk factors associated with participation in diversion programs and recidivism. Social learning theory was the theoretical framework. The key research questions focused on how juvenile offenders’ demographic characteristics, risk factors, and participation in different types of diversion programs were associated with recidivism. Archival data from a large juvenile justice agency were analyzed using chi-square tests and binary logistic regression to examine the associations between the characteristics of N = 4,656 juvenile offenders (age at the referral date, gender, race, size of family, guardian involvement, and offense type); participation in a 90-day program (DP90) or a 180-day program (P180); and recidivism (referral within 1 year). The overall rate of recidivism was 15.3% per year, but recidivism varied significantly between groups of offenders. The strongest predictor of recidivism was dropping out of the DP180 program. Offenders who did not drop out of the DP90 program were the least likely to recommit a crime. The findings of this study suggest that likely steps for positive social change be implemented through policy changes to expand the role of guardians in diversion participation process. Further research to explain how and why the level of parental/primary guardian involvement and the type of diversion program may moderate the behavior of juvenile offenders in diversion programs is recommended. The use of family-based support strategies may improve the completion rate of diversion programs and may ultimately help to reduce the rate of recidivism for juvenile offenders.

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