Experts Divide On When Peer Influences Cause Youth Crime


To parents and youth workers, a ground-breaking 1999 research article provided scientific backing for what they see all the time: Kids who act up are sometimes a bad influence on other kids. Now, some researchers are fighting back, challenging the argument that serving troubled youth in groups often causes more harm than good, reports Youth Today. “One bad apple can put bruises in the barrel – no doubt about that,” says Dan Daly of Girls and Boys Town. He adds: “It's a bit naïve to say that mixing kids with other deviant kids is an absolute formula for manufacturing a delinquent.” Mark Lipsey of Vanderbilt University looked at nearly 375 studies and found “no evidence that working with anti-social youth in groups in community-based programs has negative effects on their subsequent delinquency.”

A recent article based on a report from a Duke University-sponsored panel lists programs and policies that “aggregate deviant peers and sometimes have harmful effects.” The authors list more than 40 “effective programs that offer viable alternatives to aggregating deviant peers,” such as Functional Family Therapy, Multisystemic Therapy, the Iowa Strengthening Families Program and Big Brothers Big Sisters. Where does this leave practitioners? “Whenever possible, Don't aggregate kids who have behavior problems with each other,” says Duke’s Jennifer Lansford.


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