Cambridge Somerville Youth Study
The Cambridge-Somerville Youth Study was the first large-scale randomised experiment in the history of criminology. It was commissioned in 1936 by Dr. Richard Cabot, a Boston physician who proposed an experiment to evaluate the effects of early intervention in preventing or lowering rates of juvenile delinquency. It was started in 1939 by Edwin Powers and Helen Witmer.
In the study, 506 boys, ages 5 to 13 years old who lived in youth facilities in eastern Massachusetts, were selected and carefully matched into either a treatment group or a control group. The boys in the treatment group were assigned a counselor and received academic tutoring, medical and psychiatric attention, and referrals to YMCA, Boy Scouts, summer camps and community programs. Boys in the control group were only told to report regularly.
In the initial and ten year follow up, there was either no difference or a higher rate of negative results as reported by the authors. 30 years after the initial experiment about 95% of the participants were tracked down through public records and surveyed by Joan McCord.
McCord reported: The program had no impacts on juvenile arrest rates measured by official or unofficial records. The program also had no impacts on adult arrest rates. There were no differences between the two groups in the number of serious crimes committed, age at when a first crime was committed, age when first committing a serious crime, or age after no serious crime was committed. A larger proportion of criminals from the treatment group went on to commit additional crimes than their counterparts in the control group.
In 1981, McCord published a study from new data she gathered about the original participants in the Cambridge-Somerville Youth Study. Compared to the control group in the study, she found that a significantly higher proportion of the treatment group
- were alcoholic
- had serious mental health diagnoses
- had stress-related diseases, especially heart-related
- had jobs with lower prestige
- expressed lower job satisfaction in blue-collar jobs
She formulated four hypotheses about why the program had some damaging results to the treatment group: (1) that counselors imposed middle-class values on lower-class youth which did not work for the youth (2) that boys in the treatment group became dependent on counselors and, when the program ended, the boys lost a source of support (3) that youth in the treatment group suffered a labeling effect (4) that the support of the counselors raised expectations of the boys in the treatment group which could not be sustained, resulting in disillusionment after the program completed.
- Cabot, P.S. deQ. (June 1940). "A Long-Term Study of Children: The Cambridge-Somerville Youth Study". Child Development. 11 (2): 143–151. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8624.1940.tb04293.x. JSTOR 1125845.
- Crime And Family: Joan McCord; Vol. 17 No. 11 (November, 2007) pp.846-850
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- Wright, Kevin N.; Wright, Karen E. (June 1994). "A Policy Maker's Guide to Controlling Delinquency and Crime Through Family Interventions" (PDF). Justice Quarterly. Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences. 11 (2): 189–206. doi:10.1080/07418829400092221. OJP-91-C-006. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2006-09-16. Retrieved 2013-01-22.
- Glueck, Sheldon; Eleanor Glueck. "Unraveling Juvenile Delinquency" (eBook). Harvard Law School studies in criminology. New York: Commonwealth Fund, ©1951. OCLC 297983472. 1 online resource (xv, 399 p.).
- Healy, William, and Augusta Fox Bronner. 1969. NEW LIGHT ON DELINQUENCY AND ITS TREATMENT : RESULTS OF A RESEARCH CONDUCTED FOR THE INSTITUTE OF HUMAN RELATIONS, YALE UNIVERSITY. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.
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