Crime and Desistance: Exploring the Perceptions of Detained Youths Regarding the Risk and Protective Factors Associated With Misconduct in Kimberley, South Africa




at-risk youths, youth misconduct, risk factors, protective factors


Owing to large-scale disorganisation, family turmoil and social exclusion, South African youths often experience marginalisation, consequently amplifying their risk to transgress. Many youths have also been affected by poverty, substance abuse and violence, thereby impeding the development of morally acceptable behaviour. Although some research on the factors that perpetuate youth misconduct exists, much of this pertains to the international context and limited local studies are available. There is also a lack of research exploring the unique experiences of youths regarding the factors most closely associated with delinquency and the protective factors which buffer risk exposure and reduce the proclivity to transgress. Accordingly, a qualitative study was conducted with 20 male youths, exploring their perceptions of the factors associated with misconduct and those with the potential to safeguard against risk exposure in their social milieu. The data obtained through purposive sampling and analysed using thematic analysis revealed several key risk factors including substance abuse, gang membership and community disorganisation. Parental attachment, community support, employment and drug rehabilitation were highlighted as vital protective factors. It is envisaged that these findings will stimulate further research focused on developing intervention strategies and adapting local policies, with the ultimate aim of advancing youth desistance from crime.


Metrics Loading ...

Author Biography

Ashwill Ramon Phillips, University of the Free State



Arthur, M. W., J. D. Hawkins, J. A. Pollard, R. F. Catalano, and A. J. Baglioni. 2002. “Measuring Risk and Protective Factors for Substance Use, Delinquency, and Other Adolescent Problem Behaviours.” Evaluation Review 26 (6): 575–601. DOI:

Barnert, E. S., R. Perry, V. F. Azzi, R. Shetgiri, G. Ryan, R. Dudovitz, B. Zima, and P.J. Chung. 2015. “Incarcerated Youths’ Perspectives on Protective and Risk Factors for Juvenile Offending: A Qualitative Analysis.” American Journal of Public Health 105 (7): 1365–71. DOI:

Bartol, C. R., and A. M. Bartol. 2017. Criminal Behaviour: A Psychological Approach. 11th ed. New York: Pearson Education.

Bartollas, C., and F. Schmalleger. 2018. Juvenile Delinquency. 3rd ed. New York: Pearson.

Bazon, M. R. and R. Estevão. 2012. “Juvenile Criminal Behaviour and Peers’ Influences: A Comparative Study in the Brazilian Context.” Universitas Psychologica 11 (4): 1157–66. DOI:

Bless, C., and C. Higson-Smith. 1995. Fundamentals of Social Research Practices: An African Perspective. 2nd ed. Cape Town: Juta.

Booyens, K., and C. Bezuidenhout. 2018. “The Nature and Extent of Child and Youth Misbehaviour in South Africa” In Child and Youth Misbehaviour in South Africa: A Holistic Approach, edited by C. Bezuidenhout, 37–79. 4th ed. Pretoria: Van Schaik.

Bryman, A., E. Bell, P. Hirschsohn, A. dos Santos, J. du Toit, A. Masenge, I. van Aardt, and C. Wagner. 2014. Research Methodology: Business and Management Contexts. Cape Town: Oxford University Press.

Burton, P., L. Leoschut, and A. Bonora. 2009. “Walking the Tightrope: Youth Resilience to Crime in South Africa.” Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention, Monograph Series no. 7, Cape Town.

Burton, J. M., and L. A. Marshall. 2005. “Protective Factors for Youth Considered at Risk of Criminal Behaviour: Does Participation in Extracurricular Activities Help?” Criminal Behaviour and Mental Health 15: 46–64. DOI:

Clark, J. N. 2012. “Youth Violence in South Africa: The Case for a Restorative Justice Response.” Contemporary Justice Review: Issues in Criminal, Social and Restorative Justice 15 (1): 77–95. DOI:

Corrie, L., J. van Niekerk, and E. Louw. 2016. A Practical Approach to the Child Justice Act. Durban: Lexis Nexis.

Creswell, J. W. 2014. Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed-Methods Approaches. 4th ed. London: Sage.

Department of Correctional Services. 2021. Annual Report for the 2020/2021 Financial Year. Pretoria: National Commissioner of Correctional Services.

De Souza Da Silveira, M. A., M. C. Maruschi, and M. R. Bazon. 2012. “Risk and Protection for Adolescents Engaged in Practices of Offensive Conduct.” Journal of Human Growth and Development 22 (3): 348–57. DOI:

Farrington, D. P., M. M. Ttofi, and A. R. Piquero. 2016. “Risk, Promotive, and Protective Factors in Youth Offending: Results from the Cambridge Study in Delinquent Development.” Journal of Criminal Justice 45: 63–70. DOI:

Gaik, L. P., M. C. Abdullah, H. Elias, and J. Uli. 2010. “Development of Anti-Social Behaviour.” Procedia – Social and Behavioural Sciences 7: 383–8. DOI:

Harris, T. 2009. “A Psycho-Criminological Investigation into Risk Factors Contributing to Youth Sex Offending.” Master’s dissertation, University of Pretoria.

Hawkins, J. D., T. I. Herrenkohl, D. P. Farrington, D. Brewer, R. F. Catalano, T. W. Harachi, and L. Cothern. 2000. “Predictors of Youth Violence.” Juvenile Justice Bulletin 440 (196): 2–13. DOI:

Herrenkohl, T. I., E. A. Tajima, S. D. Whitney, and B. Huang. 2005. “Protection Against Antisocial Behaviour in Children Exposed to Physically Abusive Discipline.” Journal of Adolescent Health 36 (6): 457–65. DOI:

Hoffman, J. P. 2006. “Family Structure, Community Context, and Adolescent Problem Behaviours.” Journal of Youth Adolescence 35: 867–80. DOI:

James, N. 2015. “Risk and Needs Assessment in the Criminal Justice System.” Congressional Research Service. Accessed 21 August 2018.

Khan, S., and S. B. Singh, S.B. 2014. “Youth in Conflict with the Law – A Study on the Psycho-Socio and Criminogenic Factors of South African Youth in Detention in Durban.” Journal of Psychology 5 (2): 105–14. DOI:

Kornbluh, M. 2015. “Combatting Challenges to Establishing Trustworthiness in Qualitative Research.” Qualitative Research in Psychology 12: 397–414. DOI:

Lachman, P., C. G. Roman, and M. Cahill. 2013. “Assessing Youth Motivations for Joining a Peer Group as Risk Factors for Delinquent and Gang Behaviour.” Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice 11 (3): 212–29. DOI:

Lösel, F., and D. P. Farrington. 2012. “Direct Protective and Buffering Protective Factors in the Development of Youth Violence.” American Journal of Preventative Medicine 43 (2): 8–23. DOI:

Maree, A. 2018. “Risk Factors Pertaining to Youth Offenders”. In Child and Youth Misbehaviour in South Africa: A Holistic Approach, edited by C. Bezuidenhout, 81–108. 4th ed. Pretoria: Van Schaik.

McCord, J., C. S. Widom, and N. A. Crowell. 2001. Juvenile Crime, Juvenile Justice. Washington: National Academy Press.

Mohajana, L. 2013. “Exploring the Risk Factors Associated with Youth Offending Behaviour in Cape Town.” Master’s dissertation, University of Cape Town.

Neuman, W. L. 2000. Social Research Methods: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches. 3rd ed. Needham Heights: Allyn and Bacon.

O’Mahony, P. 2009. “The Risk Factors Prevention Paradigm and the Causes of Youth Crime: A Deceptively Useful Analysis?” Youth Justice 9 (2): 99–114. DOI:

Phillips, A. R. 2019. “Youth in Conflict with the Law: An Exploration of Socio-criminogenic Risk Factors.” Master’s dissertation, University of the Free State.

Phillips, A. R., and L. Maritz. 2015. “Gang Sub-Culture: An Exploration of Youth Gangs in the Free State Province” Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology Conference Special Edition: 52–66.

Shader, M. 2001. “Risk Factors for Delinquency: An Overview.” U.S. Department of Justice: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Programs. Accessed 11 August 2018.

Siegel, L. J. 2016. Criminology: Theories, Patterns and Typologies. 12th ed. South Melbourne: Cengage Learning.

Simões, C., M. G. Matos, and J. M. Batista-Foguet. 2008. “Juvenile Delinquency: Analysis of Risk and Protective Factors Using Quantitative and Qualitative Methods.” Cognition, Brain, Behaviour: An Interdisciplinary Journal 12 (4): 389–408. DOI:

Smith, D. J. 2010. A New Response to Youth Crime. Boston: Willan.

Swahn, M. H., and R. M. Bossarte. 2009. “Assessing and Quantifying High Risk: Comparing Risky Behaviours by Youth in an Urban, Disadvantaged Community with Nationally Representative Youth.” Public Health Reports 124: 224–33. DOI:

Van Staden, N. 2015. “Psychosocial Factors Contributing to Juvenile Delinquency in the ZFM-Region, Northern Cape, South Africa.” Master’s dissertation, University of the Western Cape.

Wagner, C., B. Kawulich, and M. Garner. 2012. Doing Social Research: A Global Context. London: McGraw-Hill.

Williams, F. P., and M. D. McShane. 2018. Criminological Theory. 7th ed. New York: Pearson.



How to Cite

Phillips, Ashwill Ramon. 2022. “Crime and Desistance: Exploring the Perceptions of Detained Youths Regarding the Risk and Protective Factors Associated With Misconduct in Kimberley, South Africa”. Southern African Journal of Social Work and Social Development 34:20 pages .
Received 2022-04-22
Accepted 2022-09-20
Published 2022-11-30