This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

An examination of the social characteristics and beliefs of delinquent and non-delinquent youth




Johnson, Shakela

Type of Degree



Educational Foundations
Leadership and Technology


Within the last year, over 3,000 youth have been admitted into the juvenile justice system in the state of Alabama with one-third of those youth participating in a High Intensive Treatment (HIT) program. Most delinquents are school-aged youth who have not completed educational requirements. They withdraw from school to attend the HIT program, and upon their return to school are expected to comply with the same rules and regulations as non-delinquent youth. A key to the success of a delinquent youth is to refrain from committing future delinquent acts, thereby reducing recidivism. Based on Travis Hirschi’s (1969) social bond theory, youth with weak ties to family, school and community are more likely to persist in delinquent behavior. Understanding adjudicated youth and comparing this knowledge with the general youth population will aid in program evaluation and possibly predict those youth who are at risk for recidivism (Austin, Johnson & Weitzer, 2005). The purpose of this study was to determine the social characteristics of delinquent and non-delinquent youth. Using the elements of Hirschi’s social bond theory—attachment, beliefs, involvement and commitment, the researcher developed the Youth Self-Assessment of Social Characteristics and Beliefs. The questionnaire was administered to 195 participants of which 117 were non-delinquent students and 78 were delinquent students. Overall, the data observed indicated a statistically significant difference between delinquent and non-delinquent youth. Additionally, qualitative measures were used to ascertain delinquent youths’ perceptions about the High Intensive Treatment program. The delinquent youth indicated that the goals of the HIT program were challenging, but achievable. Most delinquent youth revealed that they intended to make positive changes upon completion of the HIT program. Refraining from delinquency, pursuing educational goals and obtaining gainful employment were the adjustments most delinquent youth seemed determined to make.