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The Edinburgh Study of Youth Transitions and Crime

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Title: The Edinburgh Study of Youth Transitions and Crime


1
The Edinburgh Study of Youth Transitions and Crime
  • Lesley McAra and Susan McVie
  • University of Edinburgh

2
Overview of seminar
  • Programme aims and objectives
  • Current phase of Study
  • Key findings relating to youth justice
  • Policy implications

3
The Edinburgh Study
  • Longitudinal study of pathways into and out of
    offending
  • Funded by ESRC, the Nuffield Foundation, and the
    Scottish Government
  • Aims to understand
  • - Why some young people become heavily involved
    in crime and why most stop
  • - Gender differences in offending
  • - The influence of social and neighbourhood
    context
  • - The impact of contact with agencies of
    control on subsequent behaviour

3
4
The cohort
  • Target group children in Edinburgh aged 12 in
    autumn 1998
  • Mainstream (all 23), special (9 out of 12) and
    independent schools (8 out of 14)
  • Cohort size 4,380
  • Response rate in participating schools
  • - 95 up to sweep 4
  • - 90 at sweep 5
  • - 81 at sweep 6

4
5
Data sources
  • Self report questionnaires (6 annual sweeps)
  • Semi-structured interviews (sweeps 2 and 6)
  • School, social work, childrens hearings records
    (annual sweeps)
  • Teacher questionnaires (1999)
  • Police juvenile liaison officer records
  • Scottish criminal records (conviction data up to
    age 22)
  • Parent survey (2001)
  • Geographic information system

5
6
Current phase
  • Funded by Nuffield Foundation and undertaken in
    collaboration with the Scottish Government
  • Aims
  • to map the criminal justice careers of cohort
    members (from age 8, the age of criminal
    responsibility in Scotland, to 22)
  • to explore transitions from the juvenile to adult
    system
  • to assess the impact of these careers on
    desistance from criminal offending.
  • Follows up sub-sample of around 444 cohort
    members, including
  • - all those with offence referral to the
    childrens hearing system
  • - two control groups (one matched to those with
    early history of referral one matched to those
    who had a first referral at age 15).

7
Key Findings Relating to Youth Justice
8
Four facts
  • Persistent serious offending is associated with
    victimisation and social adversity
  • Early identification of at-risk children is not a
    water-tight process and may be iatrogenic
  • Critical moments in the early teenage years are
    key to pathways out of offending
  • Diversionary strategies facilitate the desistence
    process.

9
On the basis of these facts..
  • Conundrum facing policy-makers how to develop a
    system of youth justice which is holistic in
    orientation (intervention proportionate to need)
    AND which maximises diversion from criminal
    justice?
  • Solution age-graded services and support to
    include universal targeting in the early years
    and more finely tuned individual targeting in the
    teenage years
  • Social justice not criminal justice

10
Claim1 evidence
  • Persistent serious offending is associated with
    victimisation and social adversity

11
involvement in violent offending(Robbery,
carrying weapon, 6 incidents of assault in past
year)
12
North Edinburgh state school pupils involvement
in violent offending(Robbery, carrying weapon,
6 incidents of assault in past year)
13
Violence and vulnerability
14
Violence and vulnerability cont.
15
Violence and vulnerability cont.
16
Claim 2 evidence
  • Early identification of at-risk children is not a
    water-tight process

17
Majority of serious and persistent offenders
under the radar (based on self-report data)
Chronic high level serious offenders n383 Chronic violent offenders n213 Violence at age 17 n352
Never known to childrens hearing system 69 67 77
Never known to social work 73 79 81
No convictions in criminal justice system by age 18 84 83 83
  • - Serious offending 6 incidents of assault
    robbery weapon carrying fire-raising
  • housebreaking breaking into motor vehicle to
    steal riding in stolen motor-vehicle
  • - Chronic high level serious offenders 11
    incidents at every study sweep
  • - Violence 6 incidents of assault robbery
    weapon carrying
  • Chronic violence admitted to at least one
    violent offence every study sweep

18
Majority of serious and persistent offenders
amongst north Edinburgh pupils under the radar
(based on self-report data)
Chronic high level serious offenders n71 Chronic violent offenders n38 Violence at age 17 n63
Never known to childrens hearing system 61 55 60
Never known to social work 72 74 75
No convictions in criminal justice system by age 18 72 74 72
  • - Serious offending 6 incidents of assault
    robbery weapon carrying fire-raising
  • housebreaking breaking into motor vehicle to
    steal riding in stolen motor-vehicle
  • - Chronic high level serious offenders 11
    incidents at every study sweep
  • - Violence 6 incidents of assault robbery
    weapon carrying
  • Chronic violence admitted to at least one
    violent offence every study sweep

19
How soon can we tell? cont.
Behavioural problems reported in CHS/SW files by age 5 n105 ()
Institutional pathways Referral to Reporter at age 13 37
Institutional pathways Referral to Reporter at age 15 45
Institutional pathways Conviction in adult system by age 22 46
19
20
How soon can we tell? cont
  • Inability to identify the vast majority of
    serious and persistent (self-reported) offenders
    from an early age
  • Dunedin longitudinal study (see White et al.
    1990)
  • - 19 wrongly predicted by age 11 (around 1 in 5
    false positive rate)
  • - 35 wrongly predicted by age 15 (around 1 in 3
    false positive rate)
  • - Predictability declines in the mid teenage
    years as other influences become important
  • Due to the high rate of false positives among
    those children predicted to have antisocial
    outcomes, the usefulness of preschool behaviour
    predictors for selecting children for intensive
    early intervention efforts may be limited at
    present (pp 523)

20
21
Claim 3 evidence
  • Critical moments in the early teenage years are
    key to pathways out of offending

22
Conviction trajectories(McAra and McVie 2010 in
press)
22
23
Conviction trajectories(McAra and McVie 2010 in
press)
23
24
What distinguishes the people who were convicted
early from each other at age 12?
  • Nothing
  • but, they are equally problematic!
  • They are similar on the following measures
  • They live in the top 25 deprived neighbourhoods
  • They are entitled to free school meals
  • They come from broken families with poor
    supervision and high levels of conflict
  • They belong to delinquent peer groups
  • They hang around the streets most days
  • They are badly behaved at school
  • And they are impulsive, social alienated and
    morally accepting of offending behaviour
  • and

25
they reported exactly the same levels of serious
offending
26
What changed between age 12 and 15?
  • The group that went on to have a pattern of
    chronic convictions got worse in terms of
  • truancy from school
  • exclusion from school
  • getting into trouble with the police
  • receiving statutory supervision from CHS
  • NOTE the groups did not differ on any of these
    things at age 12

27
What about those young people who were not
convicted until later?
  • Those convicted later showed problematic signs at
    age 12
  • Parental conflict, family breakdown and poor
    supervision
  • Alcohol use and impulsive tendencies
  • Weak attachment to school and peer involvement in
    offending
  • But they were more advantaged than others at age
    12
  • Less socially deprived
  • Less involvement in offending, hanging around and
    drug use
  • Better behaved at school, less truancy and
    exclusion
  • Less contact with the police or the CHS
  • Better social skills and a better moral attitude

28
So what changed to lead to their conviction
between age 12 and 15?
  • On some measures they were similar to early onset
    groups at age 12 but got worse at age 15
  • Family breakdown and parental supervision
  • Involvement with delinquent peers
  • On some measures they were better than early
    onset groups at age 12, but became the same as
    them by age 15
  • More likely to be living in an area of social
    deprivation
  • More likely to hang out on the streets, take
    drugs and get involved in serious offending
  • On other measures they were better than early
    onset groups at age 12 and got worse by age 15,
    but so did the early onset chronics
  • More likely to truant from school and get
    excluded
  • More likely to get into trouble with the police

29
Claim 4 evidence
  • Diversionary strategies facilitate the desistence
    process

30
The usual suspects(McAra and McVie 2005, 2007a)
  • Working cultures of police and Reporter mean that
    certain categories of youngsters are constantly
    recycled into system whilst other equally
    serious/vulnerable offenders escape tutelage of
    agencies altogether
  • Children with previous form
  • - 7 times more likely to be formally charged by
    police
  • - 4 times more likely to be referred by police
    to Reporter
  • - 3 times more likely to be brought to a hearing
    by Reporter
  • (the usual suspects are mostly boys, from
    socially deprived areas living in single parent
    households)

31
Damaging features of system contact (McAra and
McVie 2007a)
  • Compulsory measures of care appear to inhibit the
    normal process of desistance from serious
    offending that is evident from around age 14 in
    the cohort
  • Conversely police warnings/charges (but no
    further action) associated with a significant
    reduction in serious offending one year later
  • Edinburgh Study findings in tune with other
    international comparative research e.g.
    Denver/Bremen longitudinal studies (Huizinga et
    al. 2003)

32
Impact of agency contact
  • We looked at 3 levels of agency contact at age
    15-
  • Being charged by the police
  • Being referred to the Reporter, but no action
  • Being referred to the Reporter, and brought to a
    hearing
  • To make sure we were comparing like with like we
    matched young people on the basis of their
    offending, background characteristics,
    lifestyles, risk factors and family backgrounds.
  • We then compared each set of matched pairs to see
    how their offending changed (intervention group v
    comparison group)

33
Involvement in serious offending one year later
34
Within group change in serious offending from
age 15 to age 16
INTERVENTION GROUP COMPARISON GROUP
Stage 1 Charge -50 (.000) -43 (.001)
Stage 2 Reporter contact -39 (.001) -42 (.000)
Stage 3 Supervision -31 (NS) -49 (.001)
35
Supervision requirements
Nature of contact of cases brought to hearing (n59)
Regular child and family 63
Regular individual work with the child 25
Irregular contact 20
Specialist services
Educational welfare/psychologist 56
Youth strategy group 49
Work on offending 36
Mental health services 10
36
Regular one-to-one contact with a social worker
  • Regular one-to-one contact with social worker age
    15 statistically significant decline (p lt.000)
    in serious offending over the next year
  • Lack of regular one-to-one contact with social
    worker age 15 no statistically significant
    change in serious offending

37
Youth to adult criminal justice transitions
up-tariffing the vulnerable(McAra and McVie
2007b, 2010a and 2010b)
convicted by age 22 imprisoned by age 22
Never known to CHS 10 0.4
Referred on offence grounds ever 55 13
Placed in residential care ever 77 31
38
Youth to adult criminal justice transitions
up-tariffing the vulnerable(McAra and McVie
2007b, 2010a)
  • Key factors predicting transition from childrens
    hearings to adult system are
  • - Excluded from school by 3rd year of secondary
    school
  • - Early history of police warning/charges
  • - Being male
  • - Assessed as most needy in reporter
    files

39
The revolving door (McAra and McVie 2010b)
Convicted by 18 but not imprisoned further criminal conviction by age 22 43
Convicted by 18 and imprisoned further criminal conviction by age 22 80
Convicted by 18 and imprisoned further period of imprisonment by age 22 70
40
Longer term impact of school exclusion
Outcomes Those excluded by S3 n471 Not excluded
Serious offender at age 17/18 (self-report) 47 24
Criminal conviction by age 22 50 12
Conviction for serious violence by age 22 22 2
Imprisonment by age 22 5 0.2
41
Lessons from the Scottish Case
42
Core messages
  • Persistent serious offending linked to
    victimisation and social adversity
  • Early identification difficult and risk of
    labelling (creating a self-fulfilling prophecy)
  • Critical moments in early teenage years key to
    pathways out of offending
  • Diversionary strategies effective
  • Key question how to develop a youth justice
    policy which is both holistic (intervention
    proportionate to need) and maximises diversion
    from criminal justice?

43
Early years Transition into teenage years Transitions into early adulthood
Universal targeting communities not individuals Poverty Relationships and parenting Pre-school and early years education Outreach services School inclusion (Police) diversionary activities Youth justice intervention based on desistance paradigm Support into further education, training or employment Support for those leaving care system Intensive support for most vulnerable offenders known to youth justice (at point of entering adult criminal justice system) Retain 16-17 year olds in youth rather than adult justice
43
44
Themes and questions for discussion
  • The disjuncture between self-reported offending
    and institutional contacts
  • Vulnerable transition points
  • - primary to secondary education
  • - leaving institutional care
  • - exiting the childrens hearing system
  • - leaving prison
  • Given the facts about youth crime and justice
    what are the key gaps in current service
    provision and how could existing services be made
    more effective?
  • The challenges posed by the current economic
    context and the likelihood of a change in
    Scottish government in 2011..

45
ReferencesMcAra and McVie, 2005, The Usual
Suspects? Young People, Street Life and the
Police, Criminology and Criminal Justice, 5
(1)1-36McAra and McVie, 2007a, Youth Justice?
The Impact of System Contact on Patterns of
Desistance from Offending, European Journal of
Criminology, 4 (3)McAra and McVie, 2007b,
Criminal Justice Transitions, Research Digest,
no. 14McAra and McVie, 2010a, Youth Crime and
Justice Key messages from the Edinburgh Study of
Youth Transitions and Crime, Criminology and
Criminal Justice, 10 (2) 179-209. McAra and
McVie, 2010b (forthcoming), Criminal Justice
Pathways Key findings from the Edinburgh Study
of Youth Transitions and Crime, Research Digest,
no. 15www.law.ed.ac.uk/cls/esytc/
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