Serious, Minor, and Non-Delinquents in Early Adolescence: The Impact of Cumulative Risk and Promotive Factors. The TRAILS Study
This study uses a social-ecological approach to the development of delinquency. The authors emphasize that a balance between eliminating risk and enhancing protection across domains is essential in reducing problems and promoting competence. The cumulative risk and promotive effects of temperament, family and school factors in preadolescence were examined on different groups of delinquents (based on self-report) in early adolescence. Data from the first two waves of the TRAILS study (N=2,230) were used. The results provide evidence for a compensatory model that assumes main effects of risk and promotive factors on problem behavior. Accumulation of risks in preadolescence promoted being a serious delinquent in early adolescence, with the strongest effects for temperament. Accumulation of promotive effects decreased being a delinquent and supported being a non-delinquent. Furthermore, evidence is found for a counter-balancing effect of cumulative promotive and risk factors. Exposure to more promotive domains in the relative absence of risk domains decreased the percentage of serious delinquents. Our results did not support a protective model. Implications for prevention and intervention are discussed.