Skip to main content

Research initiative

One of the founding principles of Models for Change is that what we do should be informed by what we know—that our practical approaches to delinquency should reflect and be guided by basic developmental science.

It was the findings of the MacArthur Foundation's Research Network on Adolescent Development and Juvenile Justice (1996-2005) that first gave rise to Models for Change, by calling attention to the urgent need for juvenile justice reform that would close the gap between law, policy and practice, and our expanding developmental knowledge. With the work of the original Network now complete, the Foundation continues to fund research in support of juvenile justice reform through the Models for Change Research Initiative.


Given the Models for Change initiative's emphasis on evidence-based practice, it was a natural follow-on to the Network to see if implementing change that was consistent with the lessons learned from that research would improve system performance at the Models for Change sites. Therefore, Research Initiative questions have been framed with the needs of practitioners and policymakers in mind, through an unusual collaboration between the researchers, members of the Models for Change teams at each state site, and members of the National Resource Bank. This structure increases the likelihood of yielding results that are of more than academic interest— results that will both expand the evidence base for reform and shape its direction.

Research questions

Several members of the original MacArthur Research Network, as well as a group of new researchers, are studying questions that are directly relevant to the Models for Change initiative and sites, listed below. For most projects, research will be conducted from 2008-2009 and results reported in 2010.

  1. Consequences of Mental Health Screening in Juvenile Pretrial Detention (Sites: Louisiana, Illinois and Indiana)
  2. Risk/Needs Assessment for Recidivism: Implementation and Effectiveness Study (Sites: Pennsylvania, Louisiana)
  3. Analyzing Systems Change (Sites: Pennsylvania, Illinois, Louisiana, and Washington)
  4. Financing and Systems Change (Sites: Pennsylvania, Illinois, Louisiana, Washington)
  5. A Benefit/Cost Analysis of Juvenile Court Jurisdiction(Sites: TBD)
  6. Does the Use of Formal Guidelines for Dispositional Decision-Making Reduce Disproportionate Minority Contact?  (Sites: Washington)
  7. Interactions Between Schools and Juvenile Justice(Sites: TBD)
  8. Child Welfare Placements and Disproportionate Minority Contact in Juvenile Justice (Sites: Illinois, Pennsylvania)


Laurence Steinberg, Ph.D.
Models for Change Research Initiative Director
Distinguished University Professor and Laura H. Carnell Professor of Psychology
Temple University, Philadelphia, PA

For more information

For general information about the Models for Change Research Initiative contact Marnia Davis at