Early Developmental Crime Prevention Forged Through Knowledge Translation: a Window into a Century of Prevention Experiments



To begin to develop an understanding of knowledge translation of early developmental crime prevention.


Involves a narrative review of experiments of early developmental prevention with measures of delinquency and criminal offending, and profiles two leading experiments, the Cambridge-Somerville Youth Study (CSYS) and the Montréal Longitudinal-Experimental Study.


While the roots of early developmental crime prevention can be traced to studies of human development, experiments of preventive interventions are at the heart of knowledge translation and policy influence. This can be seen in the form of replications, the process of scaling up effective interventions for wider dissemination, and inspiration for prevention scientists to launch new and innovative experiments—sometimes with the aim to improve upon past results. For example, far from curtailing policy interest in a developmental approach to delinquency prevention or dampening the need for prevention experiments, the harmful effects reported in the 30-year follow-up of the CSYS instead had an influence on some new longitudinal-experimental studies in developmental and life-course criminology.


New experiments are needed to continue to advance early developmental crime prevention, and further research is needed to add to our understanding of knowledge translation in this area.

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    All of the studies reviewed in this article use longitudinal-experimental designs.

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    As noted by Dishion et al. [7], these “comparisons are based on random assignment within pairs matched prior to the treatment.” This means that the original design of the experiment—matching plus random allocation to treatment and control conditions—was not compromised in testing the peer deviancy explanation for the program’s iatrogenic effects.

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    It is important to note that McCord’s hypothesis about peer deviancy was developed after her 1978 article [30] and was shared with Tremblay in advance of its first published account in 1992 [32].


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Welsh, B.C., Tremblay, R.E. Early Developmental Crime Prevention Forged Through Knowledge Translation: a Window into a Century of Prevention Experiments. J Dev Life Course Criminology (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40865-020-00145-5

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  • Developmental crime prevention
  • Randomized controlled experiment
  • Knowledge translation
  • Public policy