nonexperimental research reviewed in Chapter 2 suggests that personality characteristics, beliefs, and attitudes held by individuals are robust predictors of delinquency. Two relatively stable personality characteristics – conscientiousness (e.g., competence, order, dutifulness, achievement striving, self-discipline, and deliberation) and agreeableness (e.g., trust, straightforwardness, altruism, compliance, modesty, and tender-mindedness) – predict less problem behavior. Aside from any direct influence these characteristics have on problem behavior, they also indirectly influence it by determining the extent and intensity of social control (e.g., attachments to school and others, commitment to education and work, and beliefs in rules), as well as the kinds of influences (especially peer) to which the individual is exposed. Evidence for a causal link between academic performance and problem behavior is weaker. Chapter 2 suggests that the correlation between academic performance and delinquency, at least prior to high school, is due mostly to their common reliance on early behavior problems. This chapter examines experimental and quasi-experimental studies for evidence that active manipulation of these presumed causal factors through interventions provided directly to students does in fact reduce problem behavior.
Presumably, prevention strategies aimed directly at changing one or more of these presumed causes of delinquency will be more effective and those targeting other factors will be less effective. Direct attempts to teach, model, and reinforce the emotional, cognitive, and behavioral skills necessary for self-regulation should be more effective for reducing problem behavior than attempts aimed at factors such as self-esteem or anxiety.