Since this early work, a number of studies have examined serious chronic offenders (Loeber and Farrington, 1998). Perhaps the most thorough investigation was conducted by Snyder (1998) who found that a majority of the youth referred to juvenile court in Maricopa County, Arizona, did not meet criteria to be placed into the categories of chronic offender (referred four or more times), violent offender, or serious but nonviolent offender. Indeed, 63.9 percent of all referred youth were not considered as any of these, and 29.5 percent were considered serious but nonviolent offenders. Moreover, the majority of referred youth were one-time offenders. This finding is echoed by Kempf-Leonard et al. (2001) and van der Geest et al. (2009), both of whom found that the majority of their sample did not commit violent offenses.

Snyder (1998) also found that the chronic offenders were responsible for a disproportionate proportion (44.6 percent) of all offenses referred to the court. Perhaps the public’s greatest fear is focused on chronically violent delinquents, that is, youth who frequently commit violent offenses. Yet this group is exceedingly rare. Of the 151,209 referred youth, Snyder found that only 168 were referred for four or more violent offenses. This represents only 0.1 percent of all referred youth and 1.4 percent of those youth ever referred for a violent offense. This finding continues to be reflected in recent estimates where Esbensen et al. (2010) presented concordant national-level data: “a rough approximation can be made that only .74 percent of all juveniles [aged 10 to 17 in the United States] were arrested for simple assault in 1995” (2010, p. 42). Similarly only .29 percent were arrested for aggravated assault and .20 percent for robbery. Examining the most serious offense type, homicide and nonnegligent manslaughter, the actual prevalence and proportion of offenses committed by those under age 15 is negligible (.08 percent).

Piquero (2008b) conducted an extensive review of the trajectory literature (e.g., Nagin and Land, 1993; Sampson and Laub, 1993a; Brame, Mulvey, and Piquero, 2001; Ezell and Cohen, 2005) based on over 80 longitudinal studies. He reports considerable consistency across these studies which were conducted with very different samples and in several countries. Although the number of trajectory groups varies somewhat across studies, these studies overwhelmingly find evidence that there is a large group of youth who are either nonoffenders or who offend at a very low rate at one extreme and a numerically small group of chronic offenders at the other extreme. This pattern is similar to that found in the earlier studies by Wolfgang, Figlio, and Sellin (1972) and Snyder (1998).

Recent summaries of analyses of longitudinal data sets indicate that approximately one-third of adolescents with an arrest record go on to an adult arrest; two-thirds do not. The consistency of offending varies by era, gender, race/ethnicity, and age of onset of offending, with ado-

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001

Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement