Relationship Quality in Juvenile Probation: Implications on Case Decision-Making and Outcomes
A common disposition for youthful offenders, juvenile probation has the potential to improve well-being and reduce recidivism for a large number of youth. The juvenile probation officer-youth relationship can inspire positive changes to offending youth and reduce the likelihood of reoffending, but remains poorly understood. This study (1) described the characteristics of JPO-youth relationship quality, (2) examined how youth background and probation characteristics influence JPO-youth relationships, JPO supervision practices, and probation compliance, (3) explored the link between youth relationships with JPO, supervision practices, and probation compliance, and (4) examined the role of parent-youth relations and parents' perceptions of and engagement with probation. A chief contribution of this study was going beyond probation officers' reports of their experiences in supervision and decision-making by obtaining youth reports of their experiences on probation supplemented by reports from their parents. One hundred two youth adjudicated and supervised on juvenile probation and seventy eight parents of participating youth were interviewed for this study. Our findings indicate that youth characterized their relationships with their JPOs as trusting, caring/fair, and tough. Relationship qualities among youth and their probation officers relate to supervision practices and probation compliance. Positive JPO-youth relationships characterized as caring and fair are linked to client-oriented practices such as use of problem-solving, praises, and reminders. On the other hand, JPO-youth relationships characterized as tough are linked to both client-oriented and control-oriented supervision practices (i.e., reliance on confrontational tactics including threats of detention and increased monitoring and surveillance) and increased diverse technical violations. Our findings also highlight the important role of parents in the probation process. Positive parent-youth relationships characterized as supportive and less undermining are linked to fewer diverse delinquent offenses when youth had poor relationships with their JPOs. For technical violations, positive JPO-youth relationships matter more when youth had poor relationships with their parents. Finally, positive parent-JPO relationships characterized as fair, supportive, and respectful appear to be helpful in facilitating favorable JPO-youth relationships and encouraging parental engagement with probation. This study has potential implications in informing programs and services that would facilitate collaborative partnership between JPOs and parents in order to foster better outcomes for offending youth.
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