The National Center on Education, Disability and Juvenile Justice



Risk factors associated with antisocial and delinquent behavior are multiple and inter-related. No single factor can accurately predict which individuals are likely to engage in such behavior. Risk factors may be found internally (within the individual, such as difficult temperament) or externally (in the family, school, community and in peer relations). Family risk factors for delinquency and anti-social behavior include harsh and ineffective parental discipline, lack of supervision, coercive interactions in the home, and incarceration of a parent. Examples of risk factors found in schools are overcrowding and a lack of clarity and follow-through in rules and policies. Poverty is a common risk factor for many conditions, including the development of antisocial behavior and emotional or behavioral disabilities. Other community risk factors include limited opportunities for recreation or employment and the availability of firearms. One of the best predictors of delinquency is youth involvement with high-risk and deviant peers.

However, many youth who are exposed to risk factors do not display antisocial and delinquent behaviors. The variable that appears to account for this phenomenon is the existence of certain protective or resiliency factors. Resiliency is the ability to recover strength and spirit under adversity in both internal (self) and external (family, school, community, and peer relation) domains for a positive outcome. The exposure to, and development of, resiliency factors can help youth to cope and overcome risk factors, diverting them from the juvenile justice system while enhancing the likelihood of their becoming successful adults. Good health, self-control, flexibility, good communication and social skills, self-esteem, and a good sense of humor are all examples of internal resiliency factors. Some ways that families can promote resiliency in their children include providing appropriate structures and rules within the household and a sense of belonging and purpose within the family unit. Schools help students develop resiliency by providing a positive and safe learning environment, setting high, yet achievable, academic and social expectations, fostering positive attachment to productive activities and facilitating academic and social success. Community-based afterschool programs have been shown to reduce and prevent juvenile crime and drug use.

Prevention of antisocial and delinquent behavior can be accomplished by fostering resilience in individuals who are exposed to risk factors. Resiliency can be fostered through modeling and teaching children and youth to use appropriate behaviors that meet their needs as well as, or better than, their maladaptive behaviors. Examples of strategies that target multiple factors while teaching and modeling appropriate behaviors include conflict resolution, social skills training, effective management routines, encouraging the involvement of youth in making decisions, and open lines of communication. According to the Center on Crime, Communities, and Culture (, a quality education is one of most effective forms of crime prevention and the most cost-effective strategy.

View Power Point Presentation

Selected Internet resources on resiliency:

A Guide to Promoting Resilience in Children: Strengthening the Human Spirit

Practicing Resilience in the Elementary Classroom

Turning it Around for all Youth: From Risk to Resilience

Link to numerous Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention publications on delinquency prevention

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