Date of Award

Summer 1995

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Urban Services - Management

Committee Director

Berhanu Mengistu

Committee Member

Wolfgang Pindur

Committee Member

John Austin


The goal of this research was to evaluate intake, adjudication and disposition of juvenile court cases to determine the extent to which outcomes are influenced by the race, socioeconomic status and gender of the referred youth. Three causal models were developed which incorporated the hypothesized relationships in both consensus and conflict paradigms. Zero-order correlations and path analysis were employed for quantitative analysis. Additionally, court services unit personnel were surveyed to determine the extent to which quantitative results were reasonable and reflective of their experience in the court system under study.

Path analysis and qualitative survey results indicate that the effect of legal variables, specifically prior record, offense, and last disposition, had the greatest impact on case processing. The more extensive the prior record and the more severe the offense and last disposition, the greater likelihood of formal processing at intake, being adjudicated delinquent and receiving a severe disposition. However, extra-legal variables did impact the processing of cases.

Socioeconomic (SES) status had the greatest effect of the extra-legal variables, with its effects being most evident at the intake and dispositional phases. Overwhelming majority of youths in the study were from families and communities with low SES. The impact of SES appears to be largely due to the service needs of the juveniles involved in the system, coupled with a lack of family resources to secure services outside the court system. The impact of race was most evident in the high percentage of minority youths referred to intake. Once in the system, minority youths were slightly more likely to be formally processed and receive more severe dispositions than their white counterparts. Finally, results indicate that gender has no significant impact on case processing.

Results of the research suggest there is a need for continuous monitoring of the policies involving case processing, coupled with training to heightening awareness and appreciation of cultural/racial differences. Future research should include a more in-depth synthesis of quantitative and qualitative techniques, focusing on the therapeutic purpose of the system and further operationalization of SES and offense.