Delinquency evaluates one of the largest longitudinal-observational studies of juvenile delinquents ever conducted. Utilizing a normal population sample and conducting individual interviews repeatedly over many years, the author and his colleagues followed the development of 400 British working-class boys from age eight to twenty-five, of whom one-third eventually had criminal records.
Five factors were found to predict most delinquent behavior, the most powerful statistically being the presence of a criminal parent. By measuring the accumulated pressure of these factors, D. J. West demonstrates the extent to which delinquency can be predicted from classroom observations or social background at an early age. He outlines policy guidelines that would tailor intervention to a youth’s age and circumstances, and he argues persuasively that positive change in the parents’ situation usually produces good effects on the children.