Development and Psychopathology

Social Policy Implications of Research in Developmental Psychopathology

Young children who commit crime: Epidemiology, developmental origins, risk factors, early interventions, and policy implications

a1 University of Pittsburgh
a2 Free University, Amsterdam
a3 University of Cambridge


An early onset of delinquency prior to age 13 years increases the risk of later serious, violent, and chronic offending by a factor of 2–3. Also child delinquents, compared to juveniles who start offending at a later age, tend to have longer delinquent careers. This article summarizes the report of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention's Study Group on Very Young Offenders, chaired by Rolf Loeber and David P. Farrington. The Study Group, consisting of 16 scholars and 23 coauthors, worked for 2 years on preparing a report, undertaking extensive secondary data analyses, and writing chapters in different speciality areas. The report consists of a state of the art review of the developmental background of child delinquents. The report also summarizes risk and protective factors in the individual, family, peer group, school, and neighborhood that affect that development. Lastly, the report renews relevant preventive and remedial interventions in the juvenile justice system, families, peer groups, schools, and neighborhoods, and makes a case for improvement in the integration of services for child delinquents. Policy recommendations are presented to improve methods of dealing with child delinquents by juvenile justice, child welfare, and mental health agencies.

c1 Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Rolf Loeber, Ph.D., WPIC, 3811 O'Hara St., Pittsburgh, PA 15213;