chapter  3
40 Pages

Explaining youth offending

Risk factor theories
ByStephen Case

This chapter explores the development of risk factor theories, paying most attention to their dominant artefactual forms; mapping their trajectory towards becoming the hegemonic modern-day explanations of youth offending and the most significant influences on Westernised youth justice responses. The original risk factor theories in criminology were developmental and deterministic in explanation and biopsychosocial in focus–measuring biological, psychological andimmediate social factors in early life and suggesting that these predicted later offending. With their seminal risk factor studies, the Gluecks introduced an innovative new strand of (quasi-) positivist theory that explained youth offending in developmental and deterministic terms as a consequence of exposure to biopsychosocial risk factors in early life. The most significant and influential risk factor study of all time began in the UK in 1961 and produced the 'criminal careers model' explanation of youth offending. A social constructivist pathways strand of risk factor theory has emerged to challenge dominant quantitative/artefactual, developmental understandings of risk.