Patterns and precursors of adolescent antisocial behaviour: Types, resiliency and environmental influences

Patterns and precursors of adolescent antisocial behaviour: Types, resiliency and environmental influences

Diana Smart, Suzanne Vassallo, Ann Sanson, Nicholas Richardson, Inez Dussuyer, Bill McKendry, John Toumbourou, Margot Prior and Frank Oberklaid

ATP Report— October 2003
Patterns and precursors of adolescent antisocial behaviour: Types, resiliency and environmental influences

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Our understanding of adolescent antisocial behaviour has been substantially increased by the publication of this Second Report of the Patterns and Precursors of Adolescent Antisocial Behaviour. From the very productive collaborative partnership between the Australian Institute of Family Studies and Crime Prevention Victoria, we have further comprehensive research investigating important questions which lie at the heart of antisocial behaviour.

Through this longitudinal community study on Victorian children who are now entering adulthood - the Australian Temperament Project (in its twenty-first year) - we are confirming that young people's antisocial behaviour can take many forms. We are also discovering that it is common, and most optimistically, that it declines with age. Within the plethora of very interesting findings, there are clear messages for policy and program developers as well as for practitioners and for those who deliver services to children, young people and families.

The Second Report represents another landmark in the formation of a very strong Victorian evidence base to support the government's approach to crime prevention through early intervention strategies. As the research has convincingly shown, these interventions may be most effective at particular periods in the lives of children and adolescents. The research also points to whole of government and whole of community approaches where the efforts of families, teachers, police, friends and the community can all interact and be directed to protecting our children and young people from antisocial behaviour, which is so costly and can be so destructive.

The origins of many problems, including antisocial behaviour in adolescence and adulthood, can be traced back to early childhood. The Second Report makes a further substantial contribution to our understanding of how and why antisocial behaviours develop in childhood and adolescence, and identifies opportunities for assisting vulnerable youngsters to move on to more positive pathways. In doing so, it adds to the evidence base for policy and practice regarding Australian children and their families.

Above all the Second Report carries a message of hope – that antisocial behaviour can be a passing phase which is outgrown. It is also encouraging that there are a substantial number of 'at risk' children who do not become persistently antisocial. Yet this also warns us to be cautious, and to avoid labelling children who appear to be 'at risk'. Sensitive interventions are required which recognise the reality of the multiple pathways to and from antisocial behaviour.

I strongly commend the Second Report of Patterns and Precursors of Adolescent Antisocial Behaviour and am confident it will be of great interest and a source of evidence to the research community, to policy makers, and to parents, teachers and professionals who work with children and families. In particular, it is hoped that the report, in addressing current policy concerns, will continue to facilitate government and community efforts to ensure the very best outcomes for all our children and their families.

André Haermeyer
Minister for Police & Emergency Services

Authors and Acknowledgements

The authors of the report would like to express their appreciation for the continuing support and guidance given by the Project Advisory Group established for this project. We gratefully acknowledge the valuable contribution of the members of this group, who are as follows:

  • Mr Michael Brown, Director, Community and Network Support, Australian Department of Family and Community Services
  • Dr Patricia Brown, Director, Children's Court Clinic
  • Mr Nigel D'Souza, Manager, Community Initiatives, Community Support Fund, Victorian Department for Victorian Communities
  • Ms Mary Gledhill, Policy and Program Advisor, Family and Community Support Branch, Victorian Department of Human Services
  • Inspector Bill Mathers, Manager, Youth Advisory Unit, Victoria Police
  • Ms Julie Millar, Senior Policy Officer, Student Welfare and Drug Education, Student Wellbeing Branch, Victorian Department of Education and Training
  • Mr John Prent, Manager, Research and Web Services, Community Care Division, Victorian Department of Human Services
  • Ms Uma Rao, Manager, Statistical Services Branch, Victoria Police
  • Mr Stuart Ross, Department of Criminology, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Sheldon Rothman, Senior Research Fellow, Australian Council for Educational Research
  • Associate Professor John W. Toumbourou, Centre for Adolescent Health, Department of Paediatrics, University of Melbourne, and Murdoch Childrens Institute
  • Mr Peter Yewers, Manager, Student Welfare and Drug Education, Student Wellbeing Branch, Department of Education and Training

We would also like to sincerely thank the parents, young people and teachers who have participated in the Australian Temperament Project.

Publication details

ATP Report
Published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, October 2003.
72 pp.

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