Background/Objectives: Antisocial behavior is common during adolescence and
incurs significant costs both for society and for the young people themselves. While most
adolescents will not continue on a trajectory of antisocial behavior as they age, they may still
be affected years later in terms of educational and employment opportunities. Despite stated
goals of rehabilitation, there is a tendency for society to focus on harsh sentencing and
punitive approaches, which have not been demonstrated to work.
This paper presents an overview of theory and research on antisocial behavior and describes
an approach that incorporates a developmental understanding of delinquent youth with a
psychoanalytically informed perspective on treatment.
Method: This method has been employed successfully over the past 20 years in combination
with a comprehensive approach in the context of a juvenile justice system that allows for
young offenders to be given provisional sentences and to have their criminal charges
dismissed if they successfully complete the program.
Results: Developmental psychotherapy is a viable and feasible approach for young
offenders. It has the promise of more long-lasting effects than approaches that depend
primarily on containment or punishment.