Context matters: juvenile correctional confinement and psychosocial development

Published date24 January 2019
Date24 January 2019
AuthorShelly Schaefer,Gina Erickson
subjectMatterHealth & social care
Context matters: juvenile
correctional confinement and
psychosocial development
Shelly Schaefer and Gina Erickson
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to investigate how adolescent arrest and correctional confinement
impact psychosocial development during the transition to adulthood.
Design/methodology/approach The research uses a US-based sample of 12,100 youth in junior and
high school and again in early adulthood. Factor analyses determine measurement of psychosocial maturity
(PSM) and subsequently compare baseline and subsequent psychosocial development in a multivariate
framework for males and females.
Findings Findings show that net of socio-demographic and delinquency-related controls, all three groups
have similar baseline psychosocial measures pre-confinement but by early adulthood (ages 1825) there
are significant differences between the two justice-involved groups for multiple measure of psychosocial
well-being, net of any differences at baseline. Differences are exacerbated for females.
Research limitations/implications Results suggest the need for juvenile correctional facilities to
incorporate programming that allows juveniles to build psychosocial skills through activities that mirror typical
adolescent responsibilities, behaviors and tasks.
Originality/value The authors compare PSM development for three groups of adolescents:
non-justice-involved youth, youth who were arrested but not confined before age 18 (arrested non-confined),
and delinquent youth who served time in out-of-home correctional placement before age 18 (confined) to compare
development and changes in psychosocial development over time. Further, the authors examine the i nteraction of
gender and confinement to explore if the context of confinement disrupts PSM development differently for females.
Keywords Adolescence, Longitudinal, Juvenile justice
Paper type Research paper
Despite the advancements and changes to the American juvenile justice system to protect youth,
there remains great concern about the use of formal interventions, such as confinement, to deal
with delinquency. A review by Lipsey and Cullen (2007) examining correctional interventions and
recidivism suggests that rehabilitation and treatment are more likely to reduce recidivism
compared to correctional sanctions. In fact, some correctional interventions with youth can
actually increase subsequent delinquent behavior (Petrosino et al., 2003). Further, most youth
held in residential placement who are detained (90 percent) or committed (61 percent) are held in
public facilities and 16 percent of these facilities report operating at or above their capacity
(Sickmund and Puzzanchera, 2014). Thus, there is growing concern about the ability to provide
adequate treatment in correctional facilities during a critical developmental period in adolescence
(National Research Council, 2013; Sickmund and Puzzanchera, 2014).
Scholars have begun to examine how the use of court-ordered confinement affects recidivism
and self-reported delinquency, as well as how time spent in a correctional facility during
adolescence impacts development. In particular, research has focused on psychosocial
development, the capacity for an individual to integrate the skills necessary for both socialization
and individual development to meet the demands society requires of a mature adult
(Greenberger and Sørensen, 1974). For example, work by Dmitrieva et al. (2012) focused on
psychosocial development for confined adolescent males.
Received 20 September 2018
Revised 27 January 2019
Accepted 6 February 2019
Shelly Schaefer and Gina
Erickson are both based at the
CJFS, Hamline University, Saint
Paul, Minnesota, USA.
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VOL. 9 NO. 1 2019, pp. 44-59, © Emerald Publishing Limited, ISSN 2009-3829 DOI 10.1108/JCP-09-2018-0041
However, there continues to be very little scholarly attention on how juvenile justice contact
affects females. Although some work has included females (e.g. Cauffman et al., 2015; Hipwell
et al., 2018; Moffitt et al., 2001), most of the research on psychosocial development for youth in
correctional set tings does not inclu de females, For thi s reason, our unde rstanding of
psychosocial development and delinquency is largely based on samples of males only.
This study asks whether adolescent correctional confinement affects psychosocial
development in early adulthood similarly for males and females and if and how this effect
differs for delinquent youth who were not confined in adolescence and for a comparison group
of non-justice- involved youth.
Psychosocial development in context
Steinberg and Cauffman (1996) expanded Greenbergers original concept of psychosocial
maturity (PSM) around decision making, particularly focusing on self-regulation and ones
maturity of judgmentas it pertains to delinquent youth and legal processes (Cauffman and
Steinberg, 1995; Steinberg, 2009). They argue that there are three specific dispositions
associated with PSM that affect decision making which they call temperance (impulse control),
responsibility (ability to resist peer influences and take responsibility for own behavior via a
positive self-image (self-reliance, self-esteem and identity development)), and perspective
(consideration of the implications of ones actions on others and other points of view and
make decisions giving consideration to broader contexts). Growth and maturation along
these indicators, along with cognitive competence, impact an adolescents ability to make
mature decisions. As individuals mature along these dimensions, they are less likely to engage
in antisocial or criminal behavior (Cauffman and Steinberg, 2000; Cauffman et al., 2015;
Monahan et al., 2009) and more likely to desist from crime (Schubert et al., 2016).
Aging alone does not guarantee that an individual will develop adequate levels of PSM; rather
Chung et al. (2005) argue that achieving psychosocial capacitiesis influenced by ones context
and ability to practice developmental tasks at both the individual and social level (p. 75).
Psychosocial development is achieved through opportunity structures and reciprocal interactions
during adolescence. For the general population of adolescents, maturing along psychosocial
dimensions increases steadily over time as youthsdaily tasks and interactions within social
environments (e.g. family, school and with peers) allow them to develop psychosocially during
adolescence (Dmitrieva et al., 2012; Monahan et al., 2009, 2013).
Correctional disruptions such as out-of-home placement during adolescence create
challenges to a youths psychological development and maturation by knifing off(Laub and
Sampson, 2003) the v ery opportunitie s necessary for cogn itive growth to achie ve PSM.
Building off previ ous research that substantiated social context and environment play a critical
role in developme nt (see Bronfenbr enner, 2009), Dmi trieva et al. (2012) examined atypical
contextsassociated with psychosocial development (p. 1073). Their research focused on
confined adolescent males to better understand how incarceration affects psychosocial
development. They found that placement in a secure setting is associated with short-term
declines in impul se control (temper ance), ability to f unction autonomo usly (responsib ility) and
depresses youthshope for the future (perspective). Further, longer term placement in
residential treatment facilities negatively impacts male psychosocial development to age 25
(Dmitrieva et al., 2012).
Most recently, Hipwell et al. (2018) examined a sample of adolescent females to better
understand how juvenile justice contact (measured as police contact and arrests) impacts
development of PSM. The authors found that arrest led to decreases in self-control and
responsibility. Thus, Hipwellset al. (2018) research is one of the first published studies that
examines not only how self-control and responsibility predict juvenile justice contact, but also
how juvenile justice contact decreases levels of self-control and responsibility, negatively
impacting psychosocial development. Despite the contribution by Hipwell et al. (2018), there is no
research that we are aware of that compares the impact of confinement on psychosocial
development for females and includes a comparison group of non-justice-involved youth.
To overcome the limitations in prior research, we turn to our present study.
PAG E 45

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