Juvenile delinquency, substance abuse, and violent behaviors among young people have increased dramatically over the last 20 years. In clinical settings, young people with behavior problems represent almost one third of all referrals. Yet, despite concerted clinical and correctional efforts to curb the increasing delinquency rate, poor treatment outcomes and high rates of recidivism persist.

Many believe that the increasing delinquency rate has been caused by the significant emphasis placed on sociological theories and the rehabilitative programs developed and implemented in the 60s and 70s. During this time juvenile offenders were given the same rights offered to adults, including due process and the right to an attorney.

Other factors cited for causing juvenile delinquency and childhood irresponsible behavior include poverty, family dysfunction, school failure, child abuse and peer group influence. Parents, in particular, are held responsible for their child's irresponsible behavior. The view that children are mindless robots, like a lump of clay to be molded by their parents, has been promoted by numerous clinicians and childhood development experts.

Regardless of the factors, the popular reaction has been to get tough with delinquent and violent young people by imposing harsh consequences that include referral to adult courts and incarceration with "street wise" criminals.

The "lock them up" response, however, stereotypes many young people as misfits and psychos and fails to identify the early warning signs of potentially violent, delinquent children and the need for strategies to prevent such behaviors.

It is essential that we identify children who are beginning to develop an irresponsible, antisocial thinking and behavior pattern that could result in harm to others and themselves and potential delinquent and criminal conduct.

Things You Will Need


Step 1

The Early Warning Signs Inventory contains extensive research findings and statistical information about the subject of personal responsible behavior. The Inventory in the Article is NOT to be used as a clinical test to determine a specific diagnosis nor is the procedure intended to treat a mental disorder. Therefore, the author shall have neither liability nor responsibility to any person or entity with respect to any loss or damage caused, or alleged to be caused, directly or indirectly by the information contained in this Article.

The purpose of the early warning signs inventory is to help you identify children who are beginning to develop an irresponsible, antisocial thinking and behavioral pattern. Many children have demonstrated the thinking and behavioral characteristics below. Just one, 2 or 3 of the *following signs does not constitute a serious potential for delinquent behavior.

Step 2


The intent of the inventory is to identify the number and the extent or degree of the irresponsible thinking or behavioral characteristics in children. To complete the evaluation, answer each of the items by selecting a response according to what you have observed, thought or felt about the child's thinking or behavioral characteristics. After you have responded to each statement, use the evaluation guide on the other side of this page.

Step 3

This Child:0123456
Is sneaky, secretive and devious.0123456
Is demanding, domineering and uncompromising.0123456
Lies by commission or omission. Either premeditated falsehoodsor leaving out information.0123456
Blames others and refuses to take responsibility for his choices, decisions, behaviors or actions.0123456
Is impatient and finds an easy way out.0123456
Tries to satisfy immediate gratification with as little as effort as possible.0123456
Controls others by deception, intimidation or physical force.0123456
Has a lack of empathy with no idea of injury to others.0123456
Abuses or tortures animals.0123456
Has been physically cruel to people0123456
Has deliberately engaged in fire setting.0123456
Has deliberately destroyed others' property.0123456
Has used a weapon that can cause serious physical harm to others (a bat, brick, broken bottle, knife, gun).0123456
Is sometimes truant from school.0123456
Evaluation Guide

1. Review your responses and make certain you have accurately assessed each characteristic. Use this scale as your rating guide:

1 to 2 = The child is presently not reflecting a potential for violent, delinquent, or
substance-abusing behaviors.

3 to 4 = The child is presently reflecting a moderate potential for violent, delinquent, or
substance-abusing behaviors.

5 to 6 = The child is presently reflecting a strong potential for violent, delinquent, or
substance-abusing behaviors.

2. To measure and evaluate the overall responsibility of the child, add the scores of the items. Then divide by 14 to obtain the average score and results of the overall rating.

Total Score: _________________ Divide By 14: _________________

The Overall Potential Rating: _________________

To measure and evaluate the child's overall potential status, draw a vertical line through your responses. Review the vertical line and note its location on the inventory. By observing the vertical line, you will get a general idea of the child's status. You can then plot the vertical line periodically to evaluate any improvement in the child's progress in reducing the potential for violent, delinquent, or substance-abusing behaviors

Tips & Warnings