Conclusion

Offending is one element of a larger syndrome of antisocial behaviour that arises in childhood and tends to persist into adulthood, with numerous different behavioural manifestations. However, while there is continuity over time in antisocial behaviour, changes are also occurring. It is commonly found that about half of a sample of antisocial children go on to become antisocial teenagers, and about half of antisocial teenagers go on to become antisocial adults. More research is needed on factors that predict these changes over time. Research is especially needed on changing behavioural manifestations and developmental sequences at different ages. More efforts should especially be made to identify factors that protect vulnerable children from developing into antisocial teenagers.

A great deal has been learned in the last 20 years, particularly from longitudinal surveys, about risk factors for offending and other types of antisocial behaviour. Offenders differ significantly from non-offenders in many respects, including impulsivity, intelligence, family background, and socio-economic deprivation. These differences are present before, during, and after criminal careers. While the precise causal chains that link these factors with antisocial behaviour, and the ways in which these factors have independent, interactive, or sequential effects, are not known, it is clear that individuals at risk can be identified with reasonable accuracy. In order to advance knowledge about human development and criminal careers, new multiple-cohort longitudinal studies are needed. (35

The identified risk factors for offending should be targeted in prevention programmes. Risk-focused prevention has great potential for crime reduction. The continuity of antisocial behaviour from childhood to adulthood suggests that prevention efforts should be implemented early in life. Because of the link between offending and numerous other social problems, any measure that succeeds in reducing offending will have benefits that go far beyond this. Any measure that reduces offending will probably also reduce alcohol abuse, drunk driving, drug abuse, sexual promiscuity, family violence, truancy, school failure, unemployment, marital disharmony, and divorce. It is clear that problem children tend to grow up into problem adults, and that problem adults tend to produce more problem children. Continued efforts are urgently needed to advance knowledge about offending and antisocial behaviour, and to tackle the roots of crime.

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