Since Dr. Moffitt first standardized her developmental theory, she also brought forth the significance of many different but interwoven variables including: genetics, social pressure, observation, and parental nurturing (Moffitt et al, 1993, 1996; Moffitt, 1995, 2005). Another comparable theory also contends that younger offenders are at greater risk of more serious criminal offending (Gerald Patterson 1982, 1986). This (Coercion Developmental) theory cites parental involvement as major factor in psychosocial related delinquency. In addition, negative transitions or inconsistent monitoring of the child will contribute to the onset of delinquency (Brennan et al., 2003; Patterson, 1982). A child may use temperamental actions to gain control. This behavioral pattern continues until the adolescent develops a consistent interpersonal approach of coercion.
Whatever the root cause of delinquency, finality comes in the form of treatment or incarceration. However, more restraining measures for the serious offender—out-of-home treatment or incarceration—are not as effective and are extremely expensive (Henggeler, 1996). “Indeed, data show that incarceration may not even serve a community protection function (Henggeler 1996, p. 139).” One theory is that prevention programs or treatment that only focuses on one risk factor “is unlikely to lead to long-lasting change in delinquency because multiple other forces act to support anti- social development (Dodge & Pettit, 2003).”
Alternately, selective prevention (or incarceration) is designed to corral these “at risk” youth. The principle with selective prevention/incarceration is that ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.’ The programs may range from family involvement to exterior intervention; regimented treatment to outdoor activities. However, it is important to begin the selective prevention/incarceration early in the child’s life and cross-examine multiple influential factors. Then, continue the same preventive measures to ensure new influences do not create new risks (Tremblay and Craig, 1995; Dodge & Pettit, 2003).
Dr Moffitt encourages programs designed at identifying the “at risk” youth before defining the subsequent delinquency. A similar theory involving multiple planes of identification is multi-systemic therapy (Henggeler & Borduin, 1990; Henggeler, Melton, & Smith, 1992; Scherer, Brondino, Henggeler, Melton, & Hanley, 1994). When interpreting this therapy approach, multiple major factors come into play—school, family, counselors. Based on Dr. Moffitt’s developmental theories and mindset, I believe that she would have the same opinion of some researchers—utilize every social and genetic variable and create selective prevention/incarceration as a (best practice) approach to early detection of potential delinquency.