Research Design Types: Criminal Justice Policy

The simple pretest-posttest research design is based on observing a single treatment group before and after the intervention. Simplicity in use can be considered the only strength of this research design (Welsh & Harris, 2015). The lack of comparison to the control group does not allow drawing a reliable conclusion on whether the intervention was effective. Therefore, one should avoid using the simple pretest-posttest design in policy impact evaluation.

The pretest-posttest design with a control group eliminates the major flaw of the lacking material for comparison. The addition of the relatively equivalent control group allows a researcher to compare the outcomes in order to evaluate policy impact (Welsh & Harris, 2015). In case if treatment group shows significantly better outcome measures, the policy can be considered successful. Overall, the pretest-posttest design with a control group combines simplicity with effectiveness.

The pretest-posttest design with multiple pretests adds an extra layer of depth to the pretest-posttest design with a control group. This research design type allows a researcher to obtain a baseline of behaviors instead of relying on a cross-sectional assessment (Welsh & Harris, 2015). As a result, it becomes possible to indicate the stability of specific behaviors and whether treatment and control groups have different baselines before the intervention.

The longitudinal design with treatment and control groups is the most favorable and accurate yet expensive and complicated research design. According to Welsh and Harris (2015), the main strength of this type lies in creating the baseline for both the treatment and control groups both before and after the intervention begins. As such, it becomes possible to measure the outcome after the intervention’s end, which makes it possible to confirm the results’ consistency.

The cohort study design is used when the researcher cannot assign people to the treatment and control groups. Instead, the test includes similar groups of people who go through the same experience at different times (Welsh & Harris, 2015). After that, one cohort receives the intervention, whereas the other does not. This type of research design is well-suited for the school studies in which the researcher can create student cohorts every academic year.

Finally, time series analysis allows tracking the developments of the situation. Time series represents a sequence of data points that occur in successive order over time (Hayes, 2021). In criminal justice, a researcher may utilize the time series analysis of crime rates to illustrate the trends in criminal behaviors. This information can be used for the subsequent development of crime prevention policies.

Risk Factors of Delinquency and Implications for Criminal Justice Policy

Biological and psychological risk factors are related to the natural predisposition to developing delinquent tendencies. For instance, chronic, life-course-persistent offenders tend to have multiple biological vulnerabilities (Mallicoat & Gardiner, 2014). In particular, risk-seeking behavior and criminality can result from impaired communication between the brain’s frontal and temporal lobes (Mallicoat & Gardiner, 2014). Other consistent biological and psychological risk factors are low intelligence, lack of empathy, and irritability (Mallicoat & Gardiner, 2014). However, it is important to realize that biological and psychological factors predispose, not predetermine, delinquency.

Family risk factors are associated with unhealthy relationships and certain family traits. Mallicoat and Gardiner (2014) listed the following family risk factors: antisocial parents, large family size, poor child-rearing methods, and high conflict homes. Antisocial parents may become role-model of delinquent behavior to the children. Large family size leads to a lack of parental supervision. Poor rearing methods such as physical punishment and dismissive attitude towards children may breed tolerance to violence and callousness. Lastly, high conflict families produce more delinquent individuals due to the constant stress and aggression at home.

Social risk factors are tied to delinquent individuals’ relationships with their peers. The main social risk factor for delinquency is having delinquent friends (Mallicoat & Gardiner, 2014). This factor explains the spread of delinquency through youth gangs. In addition, improperly managed schools contribute to the strength of the social risk factors (Mallicoat & Gardiner, 2014). Consequently, such schools serve as hubs where delinquent tendencies reproduce in the new generations of students,

Finally, communities with high poverty rates, unemployment, and family disruption often exist in the so-called concentrated disadvantage. This environmental risk leads to community-wide delinquency in children and adults (Mallicoat & Gardiner, 2014). Due to the scope of harmful influence, the environmental risk factors can be considered the most compelling. Given the findings on the risk factors, criminal justice policies should be aimed at communities at risk. In particular, policymakers should focus on delinquency prevention in youth. Specific measures can be targeted at schools and families, which would mitigate family, social, and environmental risk factors.

Advice on Crime Prevention Programs

Most importantly, I would ask the mayor about which type of prevention program they would like to implement. Mallicoat and Gardiner (2014) provided three typical levels of interventions — universal, selective (secondary), and indicated (tertiary). Universal prevention programs target an entire population of the city, regardless of their predisposition to criminal behavior. On the contrary, selective programs discourage specific individuals with elevated risk profiles from engaging in crime and delinquency. For instance, such programs may be aimed at stopping youth from joining gangs. Finally, indicated prevention programs target people already involved in repeated or serious delinquency (Mallicoat & Gardiner, 2014). The mayor’s answer would allow evaluating the approximate scope and cost of the necessary intervention.

Once the mayor answers my initial question, I would recommend several general strategies with empirically confirmed effectiveness. Such strategies as restorative justice for low-risk offenders, community-based mentoring, cognitive behavioral therapy, and counseling have proven to reduce delinquency (Mallicoat & Gardiner, 2014). I would also explain two critical moments for the mayor. Firstly, the selected intervention must match the level of the prevention program. Secondly, any intervention must be applied with fidelity, in a way intended by the developers. Otherwise, their effectiveness will be severely undermined, and allocated resources will be spent inefficiently.

After clarifying these points, I would advise the mayor on where they can find more information on the specific strategies. In particular, I would recommend two main resources — the Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP). The first website contains a comprehensive list of 102 certified Model, Model+, and Promising programs for crime and delinquency prevention (Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development, n.d.). The OJJDP provides various children- and adolescent-focused programs and strategies, ranging from mentoring to child abuse response (OJJDP, 2021). Overall, this information would serve as a solid launching platform for the mayor’s initiatives.


Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development. (n.d.). Program search. Web.

Hayes, A. (2021). What is a time series? Investopedia. Web.

Mallicoat, S. L., & Gardiner, C. L (2014). Criminal justice policy. Sage Publications.

Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. (2021). Programs. Web.

Welsh, W. N., & Harris, P. W. (2015). Criminal justice policy and planning. (4th ed.). Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group.

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LawBirdie. "Research Design Types: Criminal Justice Policy." June 1, 2023.