Treating Youth in Conflict with the Law: A New Meta-Analysis

5.0 Conclusion

5. Conclusion

The results of this meta-analysis provide direction to key decision-makers, program developers and program funders based on the accumulation of knowledge from more than 150 studies dealing directly with youth engaged in criminal behaviour.   In general, providing treatment to youth in conflict with the law does have an impact on the likelihood of future criminal behaviour.   These findings suggest, however, that various issues surrounding the program (e.g., integrity, dosage and targets) and its clients (e.g., age and risk) substantially affect its therapeutic potential.

5.1 Future research

There are several areas of future research that should be explored. First, additional outcomes, such as family functioning or academic performance should be researched in greater detail to determine if there is a relationship between improvements in these areas and recidivism. For example, the results of this meta-analysis demonstrated that employment gains were directly related to reductions in recidivism. Second, program characteristics related to improvements in the additional outcomes should be explored, possibly using the broader non-criminal literature in areas such as education, psychology and social work. Third, there may be relevant distinctions between types of criminal behaviour (e.g., sexual offences, trafficking, violent offences) and successful treatment strategies. Future research should further disaggregate the results of studies and explore the moderating effects of the type of criminal behaviour. Finally, a more qualitative exploration of the very successful programs (i.e., programs with an ES higher than + 0.30) would be of value. There may be common characteristics among these successful programs that can be examined through more precise coding techniques in a future meta-analysis.

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