Background:There is a lack of knowledge about specific effective ingredients of prevention programs for youth at risk for persistent delinquent behavior. The present study combines findings of previous studies by examining the effectiveness of programs in preventing persistent juvenile delinquency and by studying which particular program, sample, and study characteristics contribute to the effects. Information on effective ingredients offers specific indications of how programs may be improved in clinical practice.
Method:A literature search in PsychINFO, ERIC, PubMed, Sociological Abstracts, Criminal Justice Abstracts, and Google Scholar was performed. Only (quasi)experimental studies and studies that focused on adolescents at risk for (persistent) delinquent behavior were included. Multilevel meta-analysis was conducted on 39 studies (N=9,084). Participants' ages ranged from 6 to 20years (M=14years, SD=2.45).
Results:The overall effect size was significant and small in magnitude (d=0.24, p<.001). Behavioral-oriented programs, focusing on parenting skills training, behavioral modeling, or behavioral contracting yielded the largest effects. Multimodal programs and programs carried out in the family context proved to be more beneficial than individual and group-based programs. Less intensive programs yielded larger effects.
Conclusions:Prevention programs have positive effects on preventing persistent juvenile delinquency. In order to improve program effectiveness, interventions should be behavioral-oriented, delivered in a family or multimodal format, and the intensity of the program should be matched to the level of risk of the juvenile.