Patterns and precursors of adolescent antisocial behaviour

Patterns and precursors of adolescent antisocial behaviour

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

ATP Report— December 2002
Patterns and precursors of adolescent antisocial behaviour

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Understanding the processes by which children develop into well adjusted, law abiding citizens is crucial if we are to succeed in building safer communities. Effective crime prevention programs must be guided by sound, empirically based evidence. However, this information often takes time to collect and evidence that is available mostly relates to offending behaviour in other countries, and hence has uncertain applicability to the Victorian context.

The research presented in this First Report, Patterns and Precursors of Adolescent Antisocial Behaviour, is the product of a collaboration between the Australian Institute of Family Studies and Crime Prevention Victoria. The report is the culmination of six months work and describes findings from the Australian Temperament Project, a large longitudinal study which has followed a representative sample of Victorian children and their families from infancy to adolescence. It focuses on the nature and prevalence of adolescent antisocial behaviour in this sample, and examines precursors of this behaviour from infancy onwards.

This First Report makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the factors that influence the development of antisocial behaviour in Victorian adolescents. This research is particularly relevant to the Victorian Government's Safer Streets and Homes Strategy. It provides guidance on the nature and timing of intervention efforts aimed at redirecting children from problematic developmental pathways to pathways with more positive outcomes.

The collaborative partnership will produce a Second Report which will include an examination of factors which may protect against the development of adolescent antisocial behaviour; an analysis of the differences between adolescents who engage in violent versus non-violent antisocial acts; and an examination of the influence of neighbourhood context on engagement in adolescent antisocial behaviour.

Crime prevention research needs to be able to be translated into action. The results from this study will enable new ways of thinking about prevention and early intervention with the aim of reducing the development of antisocial behaviour. Translating research findings into practical solutions is challenging, but a substantial first step has been taken with this report.

André Haermeyer
Victorian Minister for Police and Emergency Services

Authors and Acknowledgements

The authors would like to express their appreciation for the 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:

  • 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 also wish to acknowledge the support of Mr Michael Bourne during his period as Acting Director of Crime Prevention Victoria.

We would like to thank the parents, young people and teachers who have participated in the Australian Temperament Project. Without their loyalty and commitment to this project, this research would not have been possible.

Publication details

ATP Report
Published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, December 2002.
58 pp.

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