Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Criminal Justice


Mark Fondacaro

Subject Categories

Criminology | Criminology and Criminal Justice


Juvenile Justice


The theory of symbolic interactionism explains how social interactions influence behavior. In this study, it is reasoned that culturally sensitive interactions may be associated with adjudicated youth behavior. The purpose of this project is to (1) examine the differences in adjudicated male youths' perceptions of the level of cultural competency in juvenile justice staff members and (2) to identify whether staff members' cultural competency is related to self-restraint, distress, and delinquent behavior in adjudicated male youth. Utilizing a cross-sectional design, adjudicated youths enrolled in a variety of re-entry and transitional programs were surveyed. Youths retrospectively assessed the cultural competency of law enforcement and correctional officers in New York and New Jersey. Since cultural competency has never been measured in the juvenile justice field, instruments from counseling psychology measuring the cultural competency of therapists were modified to assess the same construct in juvenile justice professionals. Instruments from psychology and juvenile justice fields were employed to assess self-restraint, distress, and delinquency, respectively.

The findings for this study shed light on the relationship between youths' appraisal of the juvenile justice professionals' level of cultural competency and their psychosocial functioning. The results provide some support that there are differences in demographic characteristics of adjudicated male youth and their perceptions of officers' levels of cultural competency. No relationship exists between appraisals and delinquency. Self-restraint is not significantly related to youths' appraisals of officers. In addition, self-restraint is not a mediating factor between appraisals and delinquency. Distress is significantly related to youths' appraisals of correctional officers. Recommendations to improve the juvenile justice system by making juvenile justice professionals more culturally competent are provided. Replication of this study with a larger sample will be needed to assess the generalizability of these findings.