Background

The population in juvenile justice institutions is heterogeneous, as juveniles display a large variety of individual, psychological and social problems. This variety of risk factors and personal characteristics complicates treatment planning. Insight into subgroups and specific profiles of problems in serious juvenile offenders is helpful in identifying important treatment indicators for each subgroup of serious juvenile offenders.

Methods

To identify subgroups with combined offender characteristics, cluster-analyses were performed on data of 2010 adolescents from all juvenile justice institutions in the Netherlands. The study included a wide spectrum of static and dynamic offender characteristics and was a replication of a previous study, in order to replicate and validate the identified subgroups. To identify the subgroups that are most useful in clinical practice, different numbers of subgroup-solutions were presented to clinicians.

Results

Combining both good statistical fit and clinical relevance resulted in seven subgroups. Most subgroups resemble the subgroups found in the previous study and one extra subgroups was identified. Subgroups were named after their own identifying characteristics: (1) sexual problems, (2) antisocial identity and mental health problems, (3) lack of empathy and conscience, (4) flat profile, (5) family problems, (6) substance use problems, and (7) sexual, cognitive and social problems.

Conclusions

Subgroups of offenders as identified seem rather stable. Therefore risk factor scores can help to identify characteristics of serious juvenile offenders, which can be used in clinical practice to adjust treatment to the specific risk and needs of each subgroup.

Sanne L. Hillege, Eddy F. J. M. Brand, Eva A. Mulder, Robert R. J. M. Vermeiren and Lieke van Domburgh
Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health, December 22, 2017
https://doi.org/10.1186/s13034-017-0201-4
https://capmh.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13034-017-0201-4