Bridging research and practice in the juvenile court system: Understanding how judges and attorneys use research in their decision making

Although research highlights the promise of evidence-based reforms, the gap between research and practice persists in most juvenile justice systems.[1] Researchers’ engagement of practitioners and policymakers is a strong predictor of research use; however, to date, researchers have made limited efforts to engage juvenile justice stakeholders in research. [2] To better understand the factors that contribute to this gap, Child Trends conducted in-depth interviews nationwide with 30 judges, 15 prosecutors, and 13 defense attorneys across urban, suburban, and rural jurisdictions. Through these interviews, we examined how attorneys and judges define, acquire, evaluate (assess the quality and relevance of research), and use research, as well as the conditions that shape their use of research. The goal of this project was to produce a set of recommendations about best practices for conducting, translating, and disseminating research so that future research can be applied more effectively in practice.

This project was supported by Award No. #2015-R2-CX-0014, awarded by the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of Justice


[1] National Research Council. 2013. Reforming Juvenile Justice: A Developmental Approach. National Academies Press.

[2] Laub, John H. 2016. Life course research and the shaping of public policy. In (Shanahan, Michael J., Mortimer, Jeylan T., and Kirkpatrick Johnson, Monica, eds.). Handbook of the Life Course: Volume II. New York, NY: Springer.