Youths who commit crime grow out of offending as they become older.
Research by the Australian Institute of Criminology says while a substantial amount of crime is perpetuated by young people, most adopt law-abiding lifestyles as they mature.
"While juveniles, because of a number of unique factors, may come into contact with the criminal justice system, they also have a strong capacity for rehabilitation," the study's author Dr Kelly Richards said in a statement.
Risk taking, lack of maturity and peer pressure increase the risk of children breaking the law.
Intellectual disability and mental illness are other risk factors.
"These factors, combined with juveniles' unique capacity to be rehabilitated, can require intensive and often expensive interventions by the juvenile justice system," Dr Richards said.
Intervention can include non-custodial sentencing, meetings between offenders and victims or taking into account the law's impact on the psychological wellbeing of the offender.
However, the report warned that harm can be done if intervention is ineffective or unsuitable.
For example, young people in detention can influence their peers to pick up criminal behaviour.
Also, detention can disrupt school attendance and family life.
Dr Richards says programs where young people are taken to prisons to see what they're like have been shown to backfire.