Adolescent Recidivism and Interventions in Australia


People who are convicted of felony and other crimes may experience a relapse into undesired behaviors that are criminal in nature after they are released from prisons or after undergoing an intervention to discourage the return of such illicit ways. Shepherd, Luebbers, and Ogloff (2016) study the role of protective factors and their relationship with recidivism for high-risk young people in detention. The purpose of the study is to investigate “the prevalence of protective factors and their impact on recidivism in a sample of young offenders in custody” (p. 4). The article focuses on young offenders in Australia.

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The authors do not state their research questions. However, an analysis of the article leads to two research questions. As defined in the Structured Assessment of Violence Risk in Youth (SAVRY) instrument, which protective items can guarantee criminal desistance in both low and high-risk lawbreakers? Secondly, the research poses the question: what are the associations that strongly relate to non-re-offending? It hypothesizes that high-risk and recidivists have minimal protective elements.

Secondly, it hypothesizes that individuals who have the highest number of protective factors have a higher probability of shunning offensive actions. Strong societal backup, being dedicated to schooling, demonstrating optimism towards an intervention or authorities, attachments and bonds, flexible individual characteristics, and pro-social participation encompass the six protective factors studied in the article.

The article is important in the context of past research reviewed by the authors. The literature review establishes various gaps that the study seeks to seal. For instance, the authors reveal how protective factors have been found to reduce the prevalence of engaging in offensive acts among adolescents (Luebbers & Ogloff, 2016). However, the article reveals a gap in research, specifically how protective factors can help in the understanding and management of adolescents’ level of being caught up in wrongdoing.

In the context of past research and quoting data from the Australian Institute of Criminology (2014), Luebbers and Ogloff (2016) reckon that 10 to 17-year-old people in Australia are two times likely to offend when compared to adults. Therefore, by sealing the gap, the researchers present a potential theoretical framework that acts as an intervention to the problem of adolescent recidivism in Australia.


The authors initially planned to use a sample size of 177 young offenders detained in Australia. However, the figure was reduced to 175 after two participants lacked complete data, which was necessary for them to participate in the research. The study subjects were recruited from Parkville Youth Justice Precinct and Malmsbury Youth Justice Center situated in Victoria, Australia. They were aged between 10 and 17 and/or 18 and 20.

They also had some reported cases of having engaged in offensive actions, including violence or having been held in custody for an average of 8.7 months. Sampling ensured that the sample size reflected the demographic characteristics of young offenders in Australia. For instance, 18 to 20 years people only accounted for 20% or 35 participants, a figure that reflected the national statistics, which indicate how this age group accounts for 19% of the total Australian youth justice system (Luebbers & Ogloff, 2016). Similarly, 48% of the sampled elements had an English-speaking background. While 32% came from diverse cultural and linguistic origins, the remaining participants (18%) were Torres Strait Islanders or Aboriginals.

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The first step in the research procedure entailed seeking consent from participants. The scholars first sought to know the participants who were interested in taking part in the study. They explained in details the purpose of the study to those who showed interest before providing consent forms to them. Secondly, semi-structured interviews were conducted to those who successfully qualified. Each respondent was interviewed for 90 minutes in a private room in both Parkville Youth Justice Precinct and Malmsbury Youth Justice Center using the SAVRY approach.

Participants’ data was acquired from the LEAP and CRISSP databases. CRISSP contained the participants’ case management notes and information on court orders coupled with demographics. LEAP database had the criminal history of the selected participants (Luebbers & Ogloff, 2016). Recidivism constituted the dependent variable while protective factors and associations such as societal backup, commitment to school, and pro-social participation were the independent variables.

Analysis and Results

The article used the SPSS statistical analysis procedure. The scholars specified SAVRY protective factors in all participants. Through a Chi-square approach, they identified differences in the frequency of occurrence of the factors in the two groups of participants “across categories of recidivistic outcomes and SAVRY Summary Risk Ratings” (Luebbers & Ogloff, 2016, p. 6). The prevalence of protective factors was assigned a rating on a scale of 1 to 6.

The number Zero (0) was assigned a low prevalence level. While 1-2 was a moderate rating, a ranking of 3-6 indicated a high prevalence. Other statistical procedures were Kaplan-Meier survival analysis, logistic regression, and the Receiver Operator Characteristics (ROC).

The article used tables and figures to present data. For example, Table 2 presented data on the mean of the six protective factors for every SAVRY Summary Risk Rating. Such a tabular format presented the data for the entire Cohort. For each protective factor, the table showed the participants in the form of the (n) and as a percentage of the total participants (N=175). Each protective factor was put against those who did not evidence it. An analysis of the data presented in the table revealed the mean of protective factors as 1.82 while the standard deviation was 1.90.

The Chi-square analysis indicated that those who did not relapse into criminal behavior after undergoing a successful intervention or release from custody demonstrated a likelihood of having five out of the six investigated protective factors. This group consisted of the general offenders and non-recidivists. Upon comparing data on the differences between violent and general recidivists, the article found violent groups as likely to have a higher level of school commitment. This research finding has a bearing on the use of protective factors in preventing recidivism among young people and adolescents in Australia.


The results support the two predictions or hypotheses. Protective factors are significant variables that determine one’s risk of recidivism. Hence, the higher the number of protective factors reported by offenders, the lower the risk of recidivism. Indeed, for the six protective factors studied by the article, non-recidivists were found to possess five of them.

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Juvenile correctional facilities entail one of the areas where the findings of the research can be applied. The facilities focus on transforming juvenile offenders by ensuring that they do not relapse into criminal activities that may lead to successive convictions.

They also seek to modify risk factors to juvenile delinquency. These factors include family, peer-group interactions, and environmental experiences such as exposure to crimes associated with leaving in communities with high violence and crime prevalence rates (Corrado & Peters, 2013; Carrington, 2013). The six protective factors studied were found to help in reducing the risk of re-recidivism among high-risk groups.

Juvenile correctional facilities should coach youthful offenders to acquire a strong commitment to schools, pro-social participation, flexible personalities, strong social backup, and a positive mindset towards authorities coupled with interventions (Luebbers & Ogloff, 2016). This treatment approach may be crucial to high-risk juvenile offenders, especially based on its capacity to prevent cases of re-offending.

The study introduces an alternative theoretical framework for managing and treating young offenders. The alternative framework suggests the need to focus on treatment approaches that depend on the identified risk levels of the offenders. Treatment approaches that target low-risk groups should focus on elements such as the victims’ well-being and protective factors. Treatment approaches that are aimed at high-risk groups should focus on responding to criminogenic factors while clinical attention for those who have moderate risk levels of recidivism should emphasize protective factors.

The study has the limitation of generalizability. Hence, the study’s findings may not apply to the wider community-based adolescents and young people offenders. Secondly, the research fails to analyze any variations in the outcomes of protective factors on recidivism across demographic differences, for instance, ethnicity. This limitation hinders the applicability of the findings to all young people population segments due to the lack of an understanding of how the prevalence levels of protective factors vary across ethnic lines.

The limitation of the research provides an opportunity for future research. The severity of the entire research sample presents a challenge, especially when it comes to delineating various distinct risk levels. Nevertheless, the researchers found statistical disparities with the likelihood of the differences in such risk levels occurring in a cohort that had the highest variability of threats. Hence, an opportunity future research is apparent where large sample sizes may be deployed, statistical procedures that rely on factor analysis approaches.

Comparing and Contrasting

The findings not only confirm the indicated hypotheses but also past research findings. For instance, Cuervo and Villanueva (2015) found juvenile recidivists as possessing fewer protective factors in comparison with non-recidivists. The study found a positive role played by protective factors such as enhancing the victims’ attitudes towards authority and interventions. The observed strong commitment to school was also an important determinant of non-recidivism.

This finding is consistent with past literature on recidivism. For instance, according to Cuervo and Villanueva (2015), positive attitudes towards an intervention indicate one’s willingness to participate in reducing the risk of recidivism with the goal of addressing the person’s criminogenic needs. Therefore, consistent with past research as discussed in the textbook, attitude-based factors comprise an important aspect of criminal desistance.

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Luebbers and Ogloff (2016) identified the gaps in past studies, which the research endeavored to seal. However, this observation does not suggest the absence of similar investigations on the role of protective factors in reducing recidivism. Other scholars may have deployed different research approaches. For example, Cuervo and Villanueva (2015) found protective factors as incredibly important in reducing the frequency and probability of re-offending.

Similarly, according to Shepherd, Luebbers, Ogloff, Fullam, and Dolan (2014) and Losel and Farrington (2012), protective factors reduced the possibilities of recidivism or any other behavioral problem among adolescents. Consequently, the study’s findings are consistent with results of similar works.

Although the research has limitations, it also has strengths. The studied sample included 18 to 20-year-old young offenders. The SAVRY instrument does not include people aged 18. However, by including them, the study has the strength of providing a better view of recidivism among adolescents and young offenders in Australia. Indeed, the researchers note that people aged 18 have a “dual-track status” (Luebbers & Ogloff, 2016, p. 14). Hence, a study that deploys participants drawn from Victorian Youth Justice System would be unreliable without the inclusion of 18 to 20-year-old offenders.


Australian Institute of Criminology. (2014). Australian crime: Facts and figures: 2013. Canberra, Australia: Australian Institute of Criminology.

Carrington, P. (2013). Trends in the seriousness of youth crime in Canada, 1984-2011. Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice, 55(2), 293-314.

Corrado, R., & Peters, A. (2013). The relationship between a Schneider-based measure of remorse and chronic offending in a sample of incarcerated young offenders. Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice, 55(1), 101-136.

Cuervo, K., & Villanueva, L. (2015). Analysis of risk and protective factors for recidivism in Spanish youth offenders. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 53(11), 1149-1165.

Losel, F., & Farrington, D. (2012). Direct protective and buffering protective factors in the development of youth violence. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 43(2), 8-23.

Shepherd, S., Luebbers, S., & Ogloff, J. (2016). The role of protective factors and the relationship with recidivism for high-risk young people in detention. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 20(10), 1-16.

Shepherd, S., Luebbers, S., Ogloff, J., Fullam, R., & Dolan, M. (2014). The predictive validity of risk assessment approaches for young Australian offenders. Psychiatry, Psychology & Law, 21(5), 801-817.

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