Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department or Program

Criminology and Criminal Justice


Pleggenkuhle, Breanne R


The current research seeks to evaluate current juvenile rehabilitative approaches and analyze their effectiveness in reducing juvenile offending behaviors. The juvenile justice system is analyzed from a historical perspective beginning prior to the establishment of the juvenile justice system in the 19th century and leading to the current approaches of the 21st century. Developmental research has found that most juveniles will desist from delinquency on their own by naturally growing out of their offending behavior. However, when juveniles become involved in the justice system the opportunity to age out of offending behavior is limited. Recognizing this, the juvenile justice system is currently in a more rehabilitative approach focusing on the potential for juveniles to change their behaviors and using alternatives to incarceration. The current research evaluates these alternatives, more specifically juvenile probation, individual therapy (including cognitive-behavioral therapy, interpersonal psychotherapy, and psychodynamic therapy), group therapy, and family therapy (including multisystemic therapy, functional family therapy, and multidimensional family therapy). Findings conclude that juvenile probation is an ineffective alternative on its own and individual therapy as well as family therapy are highly effective in its designed goals and in reducing juvenile offending behaviors. Group therapy, however, was shown to be ineffective when high-risk delinquents were grouped together and more effective when high-risk delinquents were grouped with low-risk or nondelinquent youth. Future considerations suggest the juvenile justice system could aid in reducing juvenile offending behaviors by using effective alternatives, specifically therapies, to incarceration.