European Committee on Crime Problems (CDPC)


Ministers' Deputies
CM Documents

CM(2000)113 Addendum II 16 August 2000

720 Meeting, 13 September 2000
10 Legal questions

10.1c European Committee on Crime Problems

Draft Recommendation No. R(2000)… of the Committee of Ministers to member States on the role of early psychosocial intervention in the prevention of criminality





1. Draft Recommendation No. R (2000) .. of the Committee of Ministers to member States on the role of early psychosocial intervention in the prevention of criminality

2. Draft explanatory memorandum

3. Summary Report on the effectiveness of early psychosocial interventions to prevent criminality


Draft Recommendation No. R (2000) ..

of the Committee of Ministers to member States

on the role of early psychosocial intervention

in the prevention of criminality

(adopted by the Committee of Ministers on … September 2000

at the … meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies)


The Committee of Ministers, under the terms of Article 15.b of the Statute of the Council of Europe,

Having regard to the growing concern about the increasing incidence of juvenile delinquency throughout Europe, which presently takes different and more persistent and violent forms,

Bearing in mind that those who begin offending at an early age are most at risk of engaging in serious criminal behaviour and that there is some evidence of a trend towards young offenders beginning to offend at increasingly early ages,

Considering that any society has a duty to ensure the full well-being of children and to see to it that their interests and rights are respected by all those with responsibilities towards them,

Bearing in mind the primary importance of the family, parents and others charged with taking responsibility for the socialisation and up-bringing of children,

Considering that children are still in the process of developing and that deficits in their socialisation may lead to the onset of delinquency,

Convinced that any reaction in terms of preventing criminality requires efforts across society, taking into account adverse social and economic circumstances of children, and deficits in their socialisation, personality and specific needs,

Considering that special interventions should be made to ensure that, when a child is at risk of engaging in persistent criminal behaviour, such behaviour is effectively prevented, in particular, by promoting protective factors and reducing risk factors,

Bearing in mind that these interventions involve partnership between the state, local community and local agencies,

Aware of existing regional and national variations in organisational structures and socio-economic circumstances across member States,

Given that the prevention of criminality is an essential part of an effective overall crime control strategy, as well as policies affecting the well-being of children,

Taking into account its Recommendations in the sphere of preventing and controlling delinquency, and in particular: Recommendation No. R (87) 19 on organisation of crime prevention; Recommendation No. R (87) 20 on social reactions to juvenile delinquency and referring to the conclusions and recommendations of the 19th Criminological Research Conference (1990) on "New social strategies and the criminal justice system",

Recalling its Recommendations in the field of family and social laws, and in particular, Recommendations No. R (90) 2 on social measures concerning violence within the family; No. R (93) 2 on medical-social aspects of child abuse and No. R (94) 14 on coherent and integrated family policies,

Bearing in mind the European Convention for the Protection of Individuals with regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data and related sectorial Recommendations,

Bearing in mind the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the European Social Charter, as well as the European Convention on the Exercise of Children’s Rights,

Bearing also in mind the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the UN Guidelines for the Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency (The Riyadh Guidelines, adopted by the General Assembly Resolution 45/112),

Recommends that governments of member States:

- introduce and, where they exist, promote national strategies of early psycho-social intervention for the prevention of criminality

- be guided, when formulating these strategies by the principles and measures set out in the Appendix to this Recommendation, and

- bring this Recommendation and its explanatory memorandum to the attention of all interested and relevant authorities and invite them to take these texts into account when devising strategies to tackle overall crime.


Appendix to Recommendation No. R (2000)....

I. Definitions

For the purposes of this Recommendation:

- "prevention of criminality" means measures and activities aimed specifically at reducing the likelihood of engaging in future persistent criminal behaviour as opposed to prevention of crime which is concerned with reducing the number and seriousness of offences committed;

- "risk factors" means individual characteristics or socio-economic, cultural, demographic and other circumstances, which increase the likelihood of engaging in future persistent criminal behaviour;

- "children at risk" means persons below the age of 18 years exposed to multiple risk factors;

-     "early psycho-social intervention" means any measure or activity aimed at distinguishing children at risk and reducing the likelihood of their future engagement in persistent criminal behaviour;

- "protective factors" means certain socio-economic and cultural factors as well as individual characteristics which help to protect children against the likelihood of engaging in future persistent criminal behaviour;

- "parental responsibilities" means a collection of duties and powers which aim at ensuring the affective, moral and material welfare of the child, in particular by taking care of the person of the child, by maintaining personal relationships with him/her and by providing for his/her education, his/her maintenance, his/her legal representation and the administration of his/her property ;

- "holders of parental responsibilities" means  parents and other persons or bodies entitled to exercise some or all parental responsibilities.

II.   Programmes of early psychosocial intervention in preventing criminality

1. Programmes of early psychosocial intervention to prevent criminality should be developed on the basis that they are in the best interests of children, families and society and in line with existing legal norms. They should in particular respect the privacy and integrity of children and their families and take due account of the principles of proportionality, non-stigmatisation and non-discrimination.

2. Programmes should comprise a range of relevant measures which target as full a range as possible of risk factors within the primary domains of a child's life - the family, the school (including pre-school), the peer group and the local neighbourhood - as well as promoting protective factors. They should include measures to support and strengthen families, promote attachment to school, encourage responsible, pro-social behaviour and develop safer and more cohesive neighbourhoods.

3. Measures targeting risk factors should pay particular attention to the following:

- learning difficulties and hyperactivity/impulsivity ;

- abuse, neglect, parental breakdown and placement in a residential care or welfare institution ;

- bullying, persistent truancy, exclusion, educational failure and poor school environment;

- racial discrimination, parental unemployment and long term deprivation ;

- association with deviant peer groups or sects, substance abuse (including parental substance abuse), child prostitution, begging and vagrancy.

4. Measures aiming at the promotion of protective factors should particularly encourage the following :

- social and cognitive skills, pro-social values and attitudes and coping skills ;

- strong attachment to parents and siblings, and clear, consistent and non-authoritarian rules and sanctions at home ;

- inclusive and caring school environment with opportunities for all children to achieve success ;

- strong attachments to pro-social peers and adults outside the home ;

attachment to the local community.

5. As far as possible, all interventions should be based on measures, which have been scientifically proven to be effective, although some scope for innovation should remain.

6. It should be ensured that adequate resources are provided for early intervention to prevent criminality.


III. Children at risk

7. In order to distinguish children at risk, national, regional and local agencies should develop appropriate structures and processes, including for gathering and sharing relevant information while ensuring respect of relevant legal norms and principles on the protection of personal data.

8. All means designed to distinguish and deal with children at risk should be undertaken in their best interests and in accordance with the rights of the holders of parental responsibility.

9. These means should observe the fundamental rights of children, such as physical and psychological integrity or the right to privacy. Exceptions should only be allowed if they directly benefit the child and are permissable in law.

10. Parents and/or holders of parental responsibilities of children at risk, should be informed as soon as possible, unless this is clearly incompatible with the best interests of the child.


IV. Implementation

11. Statutory as well as other arrangements should be developed for the provision of a wide range of programmes for early intervention to prevent criminality.

12. An inter-ministerial group or other interdisciplinary official/public body should be entrusted with stimulating and overseeing the development of an early intervention strategy. This group or body or authority should include representatives from the voluntary and private sectors, as well as the relevant ministries and local partnerships. The group or body or authority should also be responsible for setting standards and identifying and disseminating good practice.

13. In implementing psycho-social interventions, the following principles should be applied:

- effectiveness: interventions achieve desired aims, intervene at the appropriate moment and match the level of resources to the seriousness of the risks targeted;

- minimum intervention: interventions are appropriate and the least intrusive possible;

- proportionality : interventions are commensurate with the degree of risk;

- non-stigmatisation : interventions do not blame or shame children, their families and communities;

- non-discrimination: interventions do not distinguish on any ground such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status.

14. Programmes should be planned, co-ordinated and delivered by local partnerships with a clear indication of who is in charge. They must include those responsible for social welfare, health and the education of children. If deemed appropriate they should work closely together with other relevant agencies such as youth protection, the police, and the voluntary and the private sector.

15. Partnerships should provide appropriate structures and processes for ensuring effective decision-making, resource allocation, priority setting and programme implementation. The latter should include:

- consulting and engaging local communities, children and their families about the nature of the problem and potential solutions;

- making use of existing services, including by reallocating existing resources, as well as providing new resources where gaps in provision are identified;

- constructing an action plan based, as far as possible, on scientific knowledge of what works;

- setting realistic targets;

- monitoring and reviewing progress; and

- evaluating outcomes using appropriate benchmarks and assessing cost effectiveness.

16. Early intervention strategies should include specific provision for initial and in-service training for those involved in co-ordinating, delivering and evaluating programmes.

17. Participation in programmes should be organised on a voluntary or contractual basis. Compulsory participation by holders of parental responsibilities should only be required when they are unwilling to fulfil their obligations and providing this is in line with existing legal frameworks and does not invoke criminal law provisions.


V. Research priorities

18. To increase the current knowledge base on the nature of criminality and its prevention, funds should be allocated to specific research on:

- the nature and scale of the problem of criminality;

- the risk and protective factors associated with criminality; and

- scientific evaluations of the cost-effectiveness of interventions to prevent criminality, including the process of implementation and the co-ordination of interventions across agencies and over time.

19. In order to promote the exchange of information and knowledge on what causes and prevents criminality and to make this available to policy makers, ways to improve national and international co-operation should be developed both within the scientific community and between the scientific community and those responsible for designing and implementing preventive programmes.


Draft explanatory memorandum

to the draft recommendation on the role of early psychosocial intervention

in the prevention of criminality



Background to early psychosocial intervention in the prevention of criminality

Traditionally, in advanced industrialised societies, the criminal justice system and its agencies are seen as the main mechanisms for tackling the problem of crime and dealing with offenders. In practice, however, many crimes are never detected and of those which are, a large proportion never become criminal convictions. The criminal justice system is expensive and given its strictly limited capacity to process offences and reduce re-offending, policy makers have, in recent years, begun to think increasingly about ways of preventing crime and criminal behaviour in the first place and long before the child becomes involved in the criminal justice system.

Alongside the growth of crime and its cost to advanced industrialised societies during the second half of the 20th Century, research in this field has accumulated considerable evidence on the main childhood risk factors that can lead to future offending. Such risks generally emerge very early in the socialisation process and rapidly crystallize into infringements of a minor or more serious nature. Although no single risk factor predicts later offending, it is now firmly established that children who are exposed to multiple risks over a sustained period of time are disproportionately likely to experience a range of adverse outcomes in later adulthood, including family breakdown, educational failure, unemployment, substance abuse and crime. A list of the main risk factors associated with criminality is provided in paragraph 3 of the appendix to the recommendation.

Not all children exposed to high levels of risk end up as criminals. Research has also identified a range of factors that seem to protect some of the most vulnerable children from adverse outcomes, including criminality, in later life. Some protective factors, such as good parenting, are merely the opposites of risk factors, in this case poor parenting (i.e. low levels of supervision, inconsistent discipline, high levels of disharmony or conflict and persistent lack of care or neglect). Others, such as personal resilience or a strong attachment to a significant adult, help to moderate high levels of risk or compensate for higher levels of vulnerability. Ultimately, protective factors help to increase individual responsibility, improve social behaviour and strengthen the attachment of children to the main institutions of socialisation – families, schools, places of employment, local communities etc.

In the last thirty years, advanced industrialised societies have experienced the fragmentation of their communities, an increase in personal insecurity and social isolation, a decline in community cohesion and the stability of the family and an increased risk of exposure to psycho-social difficulties of one kind or another. During the same period, crime and the fear of crime has grown inexorably, whilst the capacity of the criminal justice system to deal effectively and single-handedly with this growth has become increasingly compromised. A new approach to controlling crime and its consequences needs to be developed to match changing circumstances and scientific knowledge about the nature of crime and ways to prevent it can help in this. There is now sufficient knowledge about the antecedents of criminality, what helps to protect children at risk from drifting towards a criminal lifestyle and what is cost-effective in preventing offending behaviour, to devise comprehensive strategies of preventive intervention which complement and may eventually supersede other efforts to tackle crime. Early intervention programmes are already commonplace in the promotion of general child development, but very few explicitly include the prevention of criminality as a long term aim. This needs to be remedied.

The decision of the European Committee on Crime Problems (CDPC) to include early psychosocial intervention in its work programme was taken during its plenary session in 1995. This decision drew, in particular, on the findings of the 20th Criminological Research Conference, which dealt with "Psychosocial interventions in the criminal justice system". This conference drew attention to the extent to which advances in the human and social sciences now offered new opportunities for improving responses to crime and criminal behaviour. This led the European Committee on Crime Problems (CDPC) to adopt in its forthcoming work programme an examination of how early psycho-social interventions, in the form of any measure providing psychological and/or social support, could help prevent the development of criminal behaviour later in life.

In 1996, the CDPC adopted the following terms of reference for the establishment of a new Committee of experts on the role of early psychosocial intervention in the prevention of criminality, the PC-IN:

"Research demonstrates that persistent property offenders may produce substantial costs (to the criminal justice system and to victims) during their criminal careers. Empirical evidence from the United States suggests that $1 spent on successful early intervention can save $7 by the time the potential offender is 20 years old. Preventing criminality (i.e. preventing people taking up a criminal lifestyle) therefore could have enormous social and economic pay-offs.

The factors associated with future criminality include criminal parents and siblings, poor parenting, school failure, social exclusion etc. These factors alone, however, do not inevitably lead to criminality. Many individuals who have been confronted with the difficult circumstances mentioned do not become criminals. The propensity to commit offences must be triggered by additional events and circumstances. They include lack of moral guidance, cognitive deficits, opportunity, abuse of alcohol/drugs, peer pressure, boredom, relative deprivation etc.

In view of the growing concern about crime and delinquency throughout Europe and taking into account that offenders are ever younger, a thorough analysis of the possibilities for preventing them from engaging in criminal behaviour or, at least, for delaying their entry into crime and delinquency would be of tremendous interest to crime policy makers."

Such an analysis, which could lead to a report and, if appropriate, to a Recommendation should aim at

a. identifying the factors which are most associated with future criminal behaviour and which are amenable to intervention (e.g. advice and training in good parenting practices, helping families under stress, preparing effective moral education plans, providing effective job training and placement, involving young people effectively in their communities);

b. identifying the agencies which would need to be involved in this process and finding ways in which they could work together;

c. taking stock of examples of good practice in member States;

d. assessing costs and benefits of early intervention programmes;

e. making recommendations for appropriate action by the governments of member States.

In carrying out this task the Committee should adopt a multidisciplinary approach and see to it that any action recommended be compatible with individual rights and freedoms."

At its first meeting, held in Strasbourg from 12-14 November 1996, the Committee agreed that its terms of reference as above, required that a questionnaire be drafted and sent to all member States for reply. The Committee based its work on the replies to this questionnaire, as well as on the reports submitted by the experts and the scientific consultants.

The Committee held 6 meetings and completed its work in 2000. The draft recommendation and its explanatory memorandum were presented for approval and transmission to the Committee of Ministers at the 49th plenary session of the European Committee on Crime Problems (CDPC) held in June 2000. At the … meeting of the Minister's Deputies (date), the Committee of Ministers adopted the draft Recommendation and authorised the publication of the Explanatory Memorandum thereto.



The preamble presents the context that led to the Committee of Ministers recommending the development of programmes of early psycho- social intervention in the prevention of criminality. The Committee of Ministers expresses concerns regarding the increasing incidence of juvenile delinquency throughout Europe and acknowledges that those who begin offending at an early age are most at risk of engaging in persistent criminal behaviour.

It also emphasises the responsibility of society to protect the well-being and interests of children, taking due account of the central role of the family and the special requirements of the child for its personal development.

It furthermore recognises that efforts required to prevent criminality need the active support of all sectors of society in addressing the wide range of underlying circumstances and risks which can adversely affect children's lives.

The preamble specifies that such efforts should focus on special interventions to protect children at risk of engaging in future persistent criminal behaviour.

It recalls that, taking into account the existing differences in organisational structure, socio-economic factors and crime problems between states and regions, these interventions should be organised in such a way as to address risk and protective factors and involve partnership between the state, local communities and local agencies.

Given that the prevention of criminality is not only an important element of crime policy but also of a strategy for the care, protection and socialisation of children, the preamble refers to the major recommendations and reports produced in this wide field.

Having regard to the concern that interventions to prevent criminality take due account of the protection of fundamental individual and social rights, including the right to privacy and the protection of personal data, reference is made to the European Convention for the Protection of Individuals with regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data, the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the European Social Charter, as well as the European Convention on the Exercise of Children’s Rights, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the UN Riyadh Guidelines for the Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency.



Chapter I Definitions

The terminology used in the appendix to the Recommendation is described and defined in the first section of the Appendix.

Chapter II     Programmes of early psycho-social intervention to prevent criminality

Paragraph 1

Early psychosocial intervention programmes aimed at preventing criminality seek to distinguish children at risk and reduce the probability that they will engage in future persistent criminal behaviour. The principal objective of such programmes is to maximise the chances that children will grow up into healthy, socially responsible adults. In all cases, such programmes should fully respect the interests, the cultural and ethnic background and the fundamental rights of the children and families that participate in them, or are targeted by them, and comply with existing legal norms.

It should be recognised that such programmes are also in the interest of society as a whole, and include the duty of any state to prevent victimisation by guaranteeing the safety of its citizens. At a more concrete level, evaluations of early intervention programmes indicate considerable cost savings in the form of reduced welfare payments, lower special education and criminal justice costs and increases in potential tax revenues from higher rates of employment.

To ensure that these programmes do not unnecessarily stigmatise the children they address, they should be geographically targeted where possible (i.e. in locations with high levels of risk). Some children, however, are inevitably exposed to more risks than others and those who experience multiple risks over prolonged periods are those who will be of greatest concern. In such cases, the targeting of individual children and their families may be considered the best option and care will need to be taken to ensure that the interests and fundamental rights of the child and his or her family are fully respected and protected. Where conflicts of interest arise, the application of the principles set out in paragraphs 7, 8, 9, 10 and 13 provide guidance on how these can be resolved.

Paragraph 2

Early psychosocial intervention programmes need to achieve two key objectives: the reduction of risk factors and the promotion of protective factors in children's lives.

Research evidence accumulated over a number of years in Europe and North America now shows that a range of risk factors in the lives of children can increase the likelihood of them engaging in persistent criminal behaviour as they grow into young adults. Equally, research has identified a range of protective factors which help to shield children from developing criminal tendencies. Consequently, it is now possible to identify, from an early age, those factors in the lives of children that can increase or decrease the chances that they will become involved in future persistent criminal behaviour. Children exposed to multiple risk factors, especially where these risks are not offset by protective factors, are those which are the main concern of early psycho-social intervention programmes.

By analysing the risk and protective factors which are prevalent in the lives of children, their families and the neighbourhoods in which they live, it is possible to devise a strategy with measures designed specifically to reduce the risk factors and enhance the protective factors. So, for example, if the primary risks identified in a particular neighbourhood are high levels of truancy from school and poor parental supervision, the measures to reduce these risk factors might include special or alternative educational provision and parenting classes.

The analysis should identify the most prevalent risk factors and the programme should identify and select measures to tackle these accordingly. Equally, a similar analysis should identify any existing protective factors and the programme should build upon these accordingly. Measures should be applied simultaneously in a number of different domains in children's lives - in their families, in their schools, in their friendship groups and in their local neighbourhoods. It is the cumulative effect of applying a range of measures over a sustained period of time and across different domains which defines the essence of early psycho-social intervention programmes.

Levels of risk (and protection) vary over time. Sudden changes, such as the death of a parent, can substantially increase levels of risk and reduce the effectiveness of protective factors to compensate for such risks. It is important therefore that early intervention programmes are able to take account of sudden changes in children’s lives. Equally, there are specific phases or transitions in children’s lives which are commonly associated with heightened levels of risk - such as the period immediately preceding and following birth, entry to pre-school and the transition from primary to secondary school – and additional support may be required to coincide with these transitions.

Paragraph 3

Whilst research has identified a wide range of risk factors associated with criminality, it should be emphasised that these factors do not always predict which children will and which will not engage in persistent criminality later in life. Furthermore, some risk factors impact directly on children's behaviour (such as poor parenting), whilst others (such as parental unemployment) impact more indirectly. However, this knowledge does offer a reasonably sound scientific basis for identifying and selecting early preventive interventions which, on the basis of the few evaluations which have been undertaken in this area, seem to have long term benefits in terms of a range of outcomes, including the reduction of criminality.

There is evidence to suggest that the number of children exposed to risk factors associated with criminality is increasing. Compared with twenty years ago, today's children and adolescents are more likely to experience long periods of inactivity and unemployment, to take drugs or other psychotropic substances, to suffer from psychosocial disorders (including depression and eating disorders), to experience the separation or divorce of their parents, or be brought up in a lone-parent family or by parents of whom one is not the natural father/mother.

Paragraph 4

Children exposed to a high risk of engaging in future persistent criminality may be simultaneously shielded from these risks by protective factors. So, for example, children who cope well with disruption and upheaval and learn to adapt to risks in a constructive way, are protected from risk. Similarly, research has shown that, other things being equal, a higher level of intelligence is a protective factor and that children at risk who are active and affectionate in their infancy, are brought up in a small family and received proper attention from their parents, are subsequently protected from engaging in antisocial and delinquent behaviour. It has also been established that proper parenting, healthy parents, a working head of household and the fact of being the oldest child are factors that protect young disadvantaged children during their first five years of life. Other research suggests that children exposed to multiple risks may be protected by an adult who is particularly attached to them (for example, brother or sister, teacher or close friend), or by affectionate parents taking a lively interest in their child's education.

Early intervention programmes should therefore aim to build upon and increase existing protective factors and provide opportunities for developing new protective mechanisms where possible.

Paragraph 5

Due to better knowledge of the risk and protective factors that influence the propensity to engage in future criminal behaviour, a number of early intervention programmes have now been designed and implemented which test this knowledge in practice. However, rigorous scientific evaluations are still few and far between and many evaluations are suspect in that their design is too simplistic and does not conform to the high standards of scientific rigour which are necessary to conclude that the outcomes from the programmes result directly from the measures introduced. Furthermore, much of what is known comes from North America and as yet, there have been very few (if any) long term evaluations of early intervention programmes in Europe.

Nevertheless, what evidence there is suggests that it is becoming increasingly possible to determine with a fair degree of certainty not only the most effective measures and the reasons why they are effective, but also their cost-effectiveness. It is now accepted that to be effective, prevention programmes need to comprise a range of complementary measures which target the main risk factors within the primary domains of a child's life (i.e. the family, the school, the peer group and the local neighbourhood), at different developmental stages (early childhood, primary school, adolescence). It is also recognised that to be effective, programmes must target behavioural change and not just changes in attitudes, values or knowledge. Some examples of cost-effective programmes that have been rigorously evaluated are contained in the annex to this explanatory memorandum.

In order to build a better knowledge base of what is and is not effective in preventing criminality, it is crucial to evaluate systematically early intervention programmes on a scientific basis. Sometimes failed programmes continue to be funded on the grounds that the evaluation was faulty (which in some cases is justified) or that the effects have not yet occurred (which may also be justifiable in some cases). It is important, however, to ensure that expenditure on interventions which have not been shown to work are curtailed and to do this it is necessary to highlight those interventions which have been shown to be ineffective in a variety of settings. Also, to avoid undue rigidity, some scope for developing innovative solutions to situations of risk should remain.

Paragraph 6

Since levels of risk vary over time and often exist for considerable lengths of time, programmes tend only to be effective when they are able to assist children and their families for a sufficiently long period. Resources for implementing early intervention programmes therefore need to be adequate to meet these conditions. Since the scientific evidence base in support of early intervention programmes to prevent criminality is as yet under-developed in European countries, sufficient funds also need to be set aside for evaluating programmes and innovative interventions.

In some cases, resources may be re-directed from existing services such that they systematically target those risk factors identified as the highest priority. This will require an assessment of precisely which risk factors are most prevalent in any particular location and of these, which are the most important to which limited resources should be directed. Some sort of balance between universal and targeted provision will also need to be secured - only targeting those most at risk might restrict the programme to very few individuals, whereas universal provision may not provide the level of resource intensity necessary to impact on those most at risk.

Chapter III Children at risk

Distinguishing children at risk in an effective way is dependent upon developing quality procedures for gathering and analysing information on risk and protective factors. However, these procedures must be balanced against the need to take into account the fundamental rights of the children and families concerned, and in particular their right to privacy.

Paragraph 7

It is primarily the responsibility of public authorities to design and implement effective methods and procedures for distinguishing children at risk. This can be approached in two ways – by targeting children exposed to multiple risks and by identifying specific neighbourhoods or communities with high levels of risk factors and low levels of protective factors.

Those people closest to a child and his or her immediate environment, such as parents, teachers and social workers, will be best placed initially to recognise individual children at risk. Parents and guardians, in particular, are likely to be the first adults to recognise behavioural or developmental difficulties. This, however, inevitably leads to the targeting of individual children and their families, which may be stigmatising. On the whole, therefore, a neighbourhood approach may be preferable.

A neighbourhood-based approach requires local authorities to develop appropriate methods and processes for identifying specific neighbourhoods where there are concentrations of children exposed to multiple risk factors. This can be done using either local archival or administrative data, available for example from education, social services or police databases, or information generated specifically for this purpose through, for example, school surveys. The latter may help to distinguish children at risk who are not known to official agencies.

Co-operation between institutions – such as kindergartens, schools and health centres - and those providing assistance to children and adolescents should guarantee effectiveness and professionalism, while preserving the legitimate interests of the individuals concerned. Children known to more than one agency (e.g. education and social services) are more likely to be at risk, but developing procedures for agencies and institutions to share what may sometimes be confidential information, will need to be developed.

It is important to ensure that the principles and laws governing the protection of personal data are not infringed and that all the necessary safeguards relating to children’s rights and the protection of the professional confidentiality of, for example, doctors, social workers, teachers, psychologists and other professionals working in close contact with children at risk. Regulations are necessary for the collection, processing and transmission of personal data in order to conform to the standards and principles laid down in national and international legislation. Particular mention should be made of the Council of Europe

Convention for the Protection of Individuals with Regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data, of 28 January 1981, and European Parliament and Council Directive 95/46/EC of 24 October 1995 on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data. Reference is also made to the norms contained in Recommendation N° R (91) 10 on the communication to third parties of personal data held by public bodies, Recommendation N° (83) 10 on the protection of personal data used for scientific research and statistics, Recommendation N° (97) 18 on the protection of personal data collected and processed for statistical purposes and Recommendation N° R (87) 15 regulating the use of personal data in the police sector.

Paragraph 8

In all countries the right of parents to bring up and protect their children is upheld by the law, and is very often a constitutional right. The protection and education of the children is generally considered a natural right of the parents and a responsibility that is incumbent upon them in the first instance. Rights enjoyed by parents and children are also protected by international treaties. Thus, the protection of family life falls within the field of application of article 8 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Articles 5 and 9 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child are also vital in this respect.

Paragraph 9

The citizens of a State have a legitimate interest in the state taking precautions to protect vital interests such as life, physical and psychological integrity, health or freedom. The early identification of the risks to which children and young people are exposed - risks which may give grounds to believe that offences will be committed in the future - may enhance these legitimate interests.

However, active methods of identification of risks, for example in the form of medical, social or psychological examinations, may lead to the infringement of certain fundamental rights of the children concerned, such as the right to physical integrity and the right to the respect of privacy. Such methods may therefore only be authorised if they directly benefit the children concerned, are not overly intrusive and are permissible in law.

Paragraph 10

The main responsibility of parents and holders of parental responsibilities is to protect and bring up their children in the latter's best interests.

If holders of parental responsibilities (in particular guardians) do not recognise themselves that their children are at risk, they should be the first to be informed by the people who have detected the risk situation. This is important because parents or guardians have to co-operate with all agencies concerned and be involved in the delivery of intervention programmes.

There may be compelling reasons to derogate from this principle, for example in those rare cases where informing the parents or guardians immediately would put the child at greater risk. Such may be the case with a child who is ill-treated or sexually abused by his/her parent or guardian and informing the parent or guardian might risk an aggravation of his/her situation before appropriate protective measures can be taken.

Chapter IV Implementation

Paragraph 11

Given the complexity and multi-disciplinary nature of early intervention programmes to prevent criminality it is important to achieve a comprehensive and integrated approach to the multiple elements involved. At the national or regional level, this requires cross-departmental co-operation and some form of partnership or contract with those responsible for delivering programmes at the local level.

At the local level, it is essential to secure an effective multi-agency response from the key statutory agencies to the problems that only they have the authority and the resources to tackle. Without statutory support and political will, preventive initiatives and the resources they require are vulnerable to being high-jacked for more immediate (but not necessarily more important) demands. Where possible, early intervention to prevent criminality should be integrated into, rather than bolted on to the delivery of mainstream services for children and their families.

In order to provide a preventive approach adapted to each country and/or region, the components of an early intervention programme should correspond to the national or regional context in which the programmes are developed. This context is defined in particular on the basis of the different cultural, social and demographic characteristics of the local populations as well as the range of risk and protective factors that prevail. So for example in one locality arrangements may centre around the need to provide support to families experiencing long term unemployment whereas in another locality, where there is little or no unemployment, arrangements may instead focus around other risks such as high levels of drug misuse.

Paragraph 12

In the last twenty years, it has become increasingly commonplace for crime prevention programmes to be organised systematically, with comprehensive planning and co-ordination strategies. Committee of Ministers Recommendation R (87) 20 on social reactions to juvenile delinquency reflects this trend. The multiplicity of risk and protective factors and the need to adopt a broad range of general and specific preventive measures, requires a high degree of collaboration and co-operation from the relevant Government Ministries and other national public and private bodies.

Whatever form these national partnerships, committees or councils take, they need to be able to provide an over-arching, cross-departmental policy framework as well as: set standards for local partnerships (see para. 15); provide professional training, secure resources for setting up programmes, funding evaluations, disseminating good practice and providing technical support. They should include representatives from the voluntary and private sectors as well as local agencies, particularly those working in the fields of health, social welfare and education. This broad composition is necessary because the elements of such a programme necessarily extend beyond the responsibilities of individual Ministries and local agencies. To be effective, a consensus on the policy and how it is to be implemented needs to be achieved by all partners.

Paragraph 13

The principles cited here stem not only from the need to respect the fundamental rights and the dignity of the beneficiaries but also from the requirement that the interventions should be effective and in the interest of both the public and the beneficiaries.

Paragraph 14

Implementation should be entrusted to local, multi-agency and multi-disciplinary partnerships, teams or committees involving public, private and voluntary bodies. Being closer to the citizens, their direct experience of the problems at the grass roots level would be particularly valuable for ensuring that early intervention programmes are effectively designed and implemented. The proper functioning of this synergy between national and local structures on the one hand, and between public and private partners at all levels on the other, will depend to a large extent on the continuity and quality of communication and consultation. An important element in this will be to ensure that proper mechanisms are in place for consulting and involving local citizens, including young people themselves.

In order to ensure effective functioning, the local partnership should enjoy a certain independence and have specific powers in the field of early intervention. It should have its own staff, appropriately trained and exclusively dedicated to the professional coordination and implementation of intervention programmes.

Given the nature of the task (i.e. that most risk factors will be defined in terms of deficits in health, education, family functioning etc.), the main players will be the public and private agencies which deliver mainstream programmes to children and their families in these areas - health, social (and youth) welfare and education. To ensure effective implementation, it should be made clear that the local partnership or committee is in charge of delivering the programme within a specified framework of resources. Effective leadership also needs to be secured and care should be taken to ensure that power and responsibility are equally shared amongst the main agencies and local citizens.

The police force, whose traditional role is to uphold the law and protect members of society, is generally perceived as a law enforcement agency. Its direct participation in early psychosocial interventions therefore may carry the risk of stigmatising the beneficiaries of programmes. This is particularly likely in communities where levels of mistrust between local inhabitants and the police are high. In these instances efforts may need to be made to overcome hostilities and build better relations with the police before programmes are set up and implemented. The police have the most to gain from the long-term success of early intervention programmes and should play a significant role. However, since early intervention will be seen by many in the police force as at best only indirectly related to their interests, it will be important to ensure they understand the significance of early intervention programmes and what their role and responsibilities should be. It may be necessary to provide specific training to the police to secure their full co-operation with other agencies.

Paragraph 15

The components of effective implementation of early intervention programmes at the local level do not differ significantly from the generally accepted principles of good local, multi-agency administration. There are, however, a number of specific principles which are particularly important in early intervention programmes. They include the importance of ensuring that:

- local communities take ownership of the programme (and citizens are not just represented in a tokenistic way);

- a full audit of existing resources is undertaken before resources are formally allocated to the programme and that existing resources and especially mainstream services are fully utilised (programmes should not have to rely on one-off, grant based funding);

- special funding is provided to fill gaps in provision and develop innovative approaches;

- interventions are based, as far as possible, on those which have been shown to work elsewhere in terms of reductions in risk factors or antisocial behaviour (or better still, criminality itself);

- programmes include realistic targets, which help to motivate local partners to achieve success, and procedures for monitoring progress, evaluating outcomes and feeding back information in order to instill a culture of continuous improvement;

- the inclusion of an assessment of the costs of programmes and the savings produced, both in the short and the long term, so that limited resources can be best channelled and resources for future programmes can be secured.

Reference is also made to paragraphs 5 and 6 of the appendix to this Recommendation.


Paragraph 16

Since early intervention programmes constitute a relatively new approach to preventing criminality, it will be important to ensure that all those involved in the co-ordination, delivery and evaluation of programmes have access to initial and in-service training programmes. Such training should be given in the first instance to all the actors in the design, co-ordination and delivery of programmes as well as the significance of evaluation. It is important to ensure that they fully understand the roles and responsibilities of their partners and the multidisciplinary nature of the task. In addition, specific training should be given to the partnership co-ordinator and, where necessary, to independent scientific evaluators.

One of the difficulties in delivering multi-agency programmes can come from the professional identities and vertical (as opposed to horizontal) orientation of individual agencies. To be effective, practitioners need to transcend their professional competencies and learn to prioritise communication across (as opposed to just within) the agencies they work in. As with any new approach, there will be problems in explaining its rationale and persuading practitioners to change the way they work. and training will need to play a central role in achieving both of these.

Paragraph 17

Early psychosocial intervention programmes are designed to deal with risk situations in order to benefit children who have not yet become involved in criminal behaviour. It is therefore important to distinguish these early psychosocial measures from those that may apply to juvenile delinquents. The criminal justice system has in principle no role to play in the delivery of early intervention measures.

Participation in measures designed to benefit children at risk and their families should be voluntary. Compulsory participation by holders of parental responsibilities in the implementation of preventive measures should only be envisaged when this is essential to ensure the well-being of the child and where national legislation provides that such participation may be imposed.


Chapter V Research priorities

Paragraph 18

Since the development of a systematic approach to criminality prevention is a relatively new development in the fight against crime, it is important to invest in the development of a strong scientific base which tests and expands upon existing knowledge in a variety of European countries. The effectiveness of early psychosocial intervention programmes depends to a large extent on the development of knowledge about what the main influences on future persistent criminality are and what interventions are effective in preventing the development of such criminal tendencies. There is still a paucity of good research in this area, particularly longitudinal studies that provide the highest quality data on the antecedents of criminality and independent randomly controlled trials for testing the causal effects of interventions.

The investment required to finance basic research into criminality and the associated risk and protective factors is justified by the state’s interest in developing its prevention strategy on the basis of a better understanding of criminality and the factors that influence its development. Little is known about the relative influence of different risk and protective factors, how they interact with one another and their causal direction.

Independent research to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of prevention programmes is difficult, but equally necessary for improving the design of interventions and justifying continued investment in early psychosocial intervention programmes.

Paragraph 19

The exchange of information emanating from research and the evaluation of interventions is not only essential for the rapid development of knowledge in this field, but also makes it possible to avoid repeating research projects and intervention programmes that have turned out to be unfruitful. In order to be effective, this exchange should be as broad as possible, both national and international, and involve the scientific community and the multiple public, private and voluntary actors concerned with the design, implementation and evaluation of programmes.

In order to promote a culture of early intervention and prevention, the results of successful programmes should be widely publicised and disseminated. Currently, the criminal justice system and its associated notions of deterrence, retribution and rehabilitation still constitute the principal components of a reactive response to the problem of crime. If this is to be challenged in the way in which medicine has successfully done in, for example, its fight against heart disease – "prevention is better than cure" – then national and international co-operation in the development and public promulgation of this potentially highly cost-effective approach to tackling criminality will be essential.



Summary report on the effectiveness of early psychosocial interventions

to prevent criminality


John GRAHAM, Scientific Expert



On the basis of increasing knowledge about the risk factors which can lead to criminal behaviour, a number of programmes have been set up and evaluated in terms of their impact on criminality and associated outcomes. Based on this body of knowledge, it is now possible to state with some degree of certainty not only what kinds of interventions work and why, but also how cost effective they are. A number of reviews summarise this evidence (see, for example, Farrington, 1996; Utting, 1996; Sherman et al., 1997 and on cost effectiveness, Greenwood et al., 1996; Karoly et al, 1997; Welsh, 1997; and Aos et al., 1999).

What works?

To establish what works in preventing criminality, it is necessary to distinguish between evaluations of initiatives on the basis of some measure of scientific quality. Many evaluations are weak in design and very few meet the high standards of scientific rigour required to conclude that they "work". Most recently Sherman et al. (1997) have presented a comprehensive review of family, school and community based programmes for preventing crime and criminality to the US Congress. He uses a five star grading system for classifying evaluations, which is used here as a guide. Only those evaluations where the strength of the evidence is such that they would be classified in the top two grades of Sherman's classification are included. This is a slightly higher threshold than that used by Sherman for determining what works (i.e. he includes some evaluations from level 3). On the whole, therefore, one can be reasonably certain that all the criminality prevention projects cited in this paper actually work. Evidence for what works in criminality prevention can be classified under the following two headings:

- Family based initiatives;

School based initiatives.


Family based initiatives

There is now a considerable body of literature which assesses the findings from family based interventions designed to prevent conduct disorder and delinquency by enhancing children's physical, intellectual and emotional development, reducing child abuse and improving family functioning (see, for example, Utting et al., 1993; Graham and Utting, 1996; Sherman et al., 1997). Such family-based interventions can be divided into three main types: early home visits and pre-school education programmes; family therapy and parent training; family preservation.


(i) Early home visits and pre-school education programmes

Sherman et al. (1997) indicates that the most promising results in preventing crime are to be found in home visitation programmes. These programmes involve trained and committed individuals, usually nurses, health visitors or social workers, supporting, helping and sometimes training parents of young children. Whether combined with pre-school provision or not, evaluations of home visitation have consistently shown positive effects on crime or crime risk factors. Sherman et al. summarise the findings from 18 evaluations that include a home visitation component, of which two - the Syracuse Family Development Programme and the Perry Pre-School Programme - measured the long term impact of home visitation (combined with day care in the former and pre-school education in the latter) on delinquency.

The Syracuse Family Development Programme provided pre and post-natal advice and support to low income, predominantly African-American women through home visits and free day care designed to develop cognitive and intellectual skills from 6 months to age 5. The programme was evaluated using a matched control group of children at age 3. Over 120 children were followed up at age 15 and whereas 22 per cent of the control group had been convicted for criminal offences, only 6 per cent of the experimental group had convictions and these tended to be for less serious offences (Lally et al., 1988).

One of the most celebrated early intervention initiatives is the High/Scope Perry Pre-School Programme, where both children and their parents were targeted. Fifty-eight black children from low socio-economic families received a two year high quality pre-school education programme in the early 1960s, whilst their mothers received home visits. The subsequent fortunes of the children were contrasted with a matched control group of 65 children from the same disadvantaged black community in Michigan. Those who attended the programme performed better in school and adult education, were more likely to graduate and get employment and were about half as likely to be pregnant during their teens. Arrest rates were 40% lower for the experimental group at age 19. By age 27, the children who had attended pre-school were significantly more likely to have completed their education, to own their homes and to be earning more than $2,000 a month. In the control group 35 per cent had been arrested five or more times, compared with 7 per cent of those who had attended the pre-school programme (Schweinhart and Weikart, 1993).

These findings are remarkable, given the time span between the intervention and the adult outcomes. It should be stressed, however, that despite the very high quality of the research design, the samples are small and the target group highly specific in terms of its socio-economic background. Similar experiments with larger samples of individuals and families from a wider range of target groups need to be undertaken. It should be noted however, that Weikart (co-founder of the project) has indicated that the multiple benefits of the Perry pre-school project have led insurance companies to fund similar programmes on the basis of their long term return on investment (i.e. they are more likely to do well at school, find long term stable employment and therefore purchase a house or a car).

Ten of the evaluations reviewed by Sherman et al. (1997) focused on crime risk factors and measured outcomes in terms of later reductions in anti-social behaviour and improvements in children's cognitive skills, parental attachment and parenting skills and a further five were evaluated in terms of their impact on child abuse. All showed positive outcomes.

Such programmes often have large effects for both parents and children. The Rochester University study, for example (see Olds, et al, 1986), achieved a 79% relative reduction in child abuse for high risk mothers. Similarly, the Syracuse Family Development Programme achieved a 73% reduction in probation referrals by age 15 (Lally et al. 1988) and in a fifteen year follow-up of the Elmira Programme in New York, Olds et al. (1997) reported 69 per cent fewer arrests and 44 per cent fewer substance abuse related behavioural problems experienced by the mothers and 46 per cent fewer reports of child abuse in the experimental group. Most recently, Olds et al. (1998) have shown that in addition to lower arrest rates for the mothers, their children had less than half as many arrests as children of mothers in the control group.

Whilst large effect sizes may be the exception rather than the rule, (Sherman et al., 1997), positive effects clearly do endure and may lead to substantial reductions in serious crime in the future. Sherman (1997) estimates that, on the basis of the evidence on reductions in child abuse alone, the delivery of a universal home visitation programme in the US would prevent over half a million serious crimes. If a similar proportion of parental neglect cases were also prevented, a further 800,000 serious crimes could be prevented.


(ii) Family therapy and parent training

Sherman et al. (1997) review the evidence on the effectiveness of 17 family therapy and parent training programmes, of which three are measured in terms of their impact on delinquency. The other programmes are evaluated in terms of their impact on crime risk factors such as anti-social behaviour, aggression and poor parenting. All of the three programmes which measured their impact on delinquency showed moderately positive effects. One programme, which provided just parent training for a period of 6 to 8 months to 10 years old children, demonstrated reductions in self-reported delinquency after one year (Kazdin et al. 1992). In another, parent training was combined with social skills training for 160 children aged 7 for a period of over two years. This produced a similar reduction in self-reported offending, but after a much longer follow-up period of 6 years. It also produced a small reduction in officially recorded delinquency (Tremblay et al., 1995). The third programme targeted 1,659 children aged 6, providing them, their parents and their teachers with skills training over a four year period. The results were modest, but showed a short term reduction in self-reported delinquency and improvements in parenting and attachment to family and school (Hawkins et al., 1992).

Similar programmes in Europe are uncommon, but work is currently being undertaken at the Maudsley Hospital in London with severely aggressive children and their families. This work uses video-tapes and one-way mirrors to show parents how to control the behaviour of their children without resorting to physical punishments or threats. The mothers of 124 disadvantaged children with conduct disorders aged between 3 and 8 were randomly allocated to experimental and control groups. Both initially and after one year the programme was found to reduce childhood aggression, hyperactivity and anti-social behaviour in the home (Scott, 1998).

Overall, parent training courses do seem to be able to help parents respond more constructively, use discipline less harshly and more consistently and avoid situations which precipitate conflict. However, none of the existing evaluations include long term follow-ups, many are based on small numbers and there is no evidence to show that they are effective beyond the home environment (Kazdin 1985).


(iii) Family preservation

Family preservation comprises intensive interventions with families where parent:child relationships are under severe stress or breaking down and the child is at risk of being taken into care. Given the considerable potential savings of avoiding out-of-home placements (whether in foster care or residential institutions), family preservation programmes are likely to be cost-effective if they can also be shown to reduce later crime and delinquency. The available evidence on effectiveness is limited, although family preservation projects in Washington (Tacoma Homebuilders) and Michigan (Families First) have both demonstrated success in terms of keeping children out of care Utting et al. 1993). According to Utting et al. (1993), projects which report success in working with such families tend to be those which emphasise the need to raise parental self-esteem and build on the existing strengths of the parents concerned.

A comprehensive strategy of early intervention would consist of providing an integrated package of pre-school education for the child and support and training for the child's parents, including intensive therapy in extreme cases. But whilst early interventions show much promise and are necessary for effective prevention in the early years, they need to be supplemented with other strategies. As the child begins to explore the outside world, the importance of family life and parenting recede as school and peer group influences increase.


School based initiatives

School-based interventions which aim to reduce the propensity to engage in delinquent and anti-social behaviour can be divided into three broad types: projects which aim to influence the organisation and ethos of schools; anti-bullying initiatives and family/school partnerships.

(i) Organisational change programmes

In the early 1980s, the US Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention funded seventeen diverse, school-based, delinquency prevention programmes in high crime areas under their Alternative Education Initiative. The initiative was based on the premise that by altering the organisation of schools, delinquency and associated problems of drop-out, disruptive behaviour and truancy could be prevented. Various strategies were tested, ranging from peer counselling to school climate improvement. Overall, some positive findings were recorded, including greater safety in programme schools, less teacher victimisation, small falls in delinquency, decreases in alienation, and improvements in pupil self-concept.

One project, the PATHE project, combined institutional change with individually-based initiatives to increase educational attainment and reduce delinquent behaviour in four high and four middle schools in predominantly black, inner city areas (Gottfredson and Gottfredson, 1986). The results show that those elements of the projects concerned wih institutional change had a small but measurable effect on delinquency and school conduct one year after the programme was implemented. The most dramatic improvement occurred in pupils' reports and official recordings of suspensions in the three experimental high schools, which dropped by 14% on average. In the control high school, the suspension rate increased by 10 per cent. However, similar improvements were not recorded for academic performance, attendance, and self-concept, although there were improvements in attachment to school and significant decreases in school alienation.

In contrast, the initiatives based on individuals had no effect on delinquency, attachment to school or pupil self-concepts, but did improve the commitment of at risk pupils to education as indicated by small improvements in attendance and academic performance.

A second evaluation of a similar initiative - the Effective Schools Project - reported considerably larger reductions in delinquency, two years after the programme was implemented (Gottfredson, 1987). This project introduced measures to improve the clarity of rules and the consistency with which they are enforced; co-operative learning; frequent monitoring of students' work; expansion of extracurricular activities; and various measures to improve career-related motivation and participation.

On the whole, research on school effectiveness shows that schools which are characterised by high quality classroom management, good leadership and organisation and where children feel emotionally as well as educationally supported, are those which are best placed to protect their pupils from engaging in criminal behaviour.


(ii) Anti-bullying initiatives

School bullies are particularly at risk of becoming serious violent offenders, but are also more likely to raise children who become bullies themselves (Farrington, 1993). In Bergen, Norway a "whole school" approach to combat bullying in school has been implemented in 42 schools. The initiative introduced a wide range of measures, such as specific rules about bullying, the insertion of discussions on bullying into the curriculum, encouragement to victims to report incidents of bullying and the introduction of better systems of playground supervision. In addition to marked reductions in bullying, the initiative resulted in reductions in anti-social behaviour and victimisations outside school. The positive effects endured for at least 20 months (Olweus, 1990 and 1991).

In England, a similar "whole school" anti-bullying approach in 23 schools in Sheffield included setting out precise procedures for preventing and responding to bullying, improving playground supervision and implementing courses for improving problem-solving skills and assertiveness. The programme was successful in reducing bullying in primary schools, but had relatively small effects in secondary schools (Smith and Sharp, 1994).

Another anti-bullying initiative in England within a violence prevention project in two high crime public housing estates in East London and Merseyside targeted four schools (two secondary and two primary). As in Bergen and Sheffield, a "whole school" approach was adopted and measures such as improvements in the supervision and surveillance of play areas during breaks, the provision of a confidential contact for victims and discussion groups for parents were introduced. Two years later, levels of bullying had decreased to varying degrees in all four schools (Pitts and Smith, 1995).


(iii) Family/school partnerships

To be effective, early intervention needs to improve both the parenting and the education of children at risk, preferably sustained throughout childhood. The best way to accomplish this is to forge partnerships between the two principal sources of socialisation and informal social control - families and schools (Graham and Utting, 1996). A few projects have begun to adopt this approach.

In Oregon, a universal intervention programme to prevent conduct disorders has been developed (Reid et al, 1994). LIFT (Linking Interests of Families and Teachers) focuses on encouraging pro-social and discouraging anti-social behaviour at home and at school through parent training, social skills classes for the children, playground behaviour strategies and the installation of a school-to-home telephone line on which teachers and parents can receive and leave messages. Early findings suggest that LIFT has had an immediate impact in terms of reducing aggressive and anti-social behaviour (Reid, 1999), but it is not yet known whether these findings will be sustained in the long term.

The FAST TRACK programme builds upon the links which develop between parents and schools during the early years by developing strategies to sustain and improve these links initiatives (Conduct Problems Prevention Research Group, 1992). The main goals are to reduce anti-social behaviour in the home and in the school by improving parent/child and family/school relationships and the child's academic, social and cognitive development during their primary and early secondary school career. The main mechanisms for achieving these goals are parent training, bi-weekly home visits, social skills training, academic tutoring and teacher-based classroom interventions to improve behavioural management.

To encourage parents to help their children succeed in school, they are shown how to set up a structured learning environment to encourage their learning and how to communicate with the school and develop a positive relationship with the child's teacher. Simultaneously, parents are shown through home visits how to help their children implement anger control and problem-solving strategies taught to the children in the classroom. Family co-ordinators are used to help parents to solve some of their own problems, like providing after-school care for their children or protection from a physically abusive former partner. They are allocated to families for several years, so they have enough time to build up trust and explore interpersonal relationships within the family.

Despite some difficult implementation problems (difficulties in acquiring and sustaining commitment, slow to progress, coping with high turnover of school personnel etc.) the evaluation of the FAST TRACK programme is beginning to show some positive improvements in social, emotional and reading skills and peer relations and some limited improvements in behaviour. The involvement of parents in their children's schools has also improved, as have their relations with their children and their strategies for disciplining them.

In the UK, the Dorset Healthy Alliance Project enhances family/school partnerships through the provision of support to families experiencing difficulties and teachers dealing with disruptive pupils aged 7 and over. The main aims of the project were to improve educational achievement and reduce disruptive behaviour, truancy and delinquency. A range of interventions were used, including home visits, anti-bullying campaigns, family therapy, after-school clubs, social skills training and school-based behavioural support. The results of the evaluation show major improvements in pupil achievement, behaviour and truancy, reductions in theft, vandalism and substance abuse and large reductions in child protection referrals (Pritchard, 1998).

What doesn't work?

There are many more examples of programmes which have been shown not to work than those which do. Dryfoos (1990) and Gottfredson (1997), list a number of preventive interventions which have been evaluated and found not to work. These include individual casework, individual and peer group counselling/therapy (the latter may even be counter-productive), pharmacological interventions (except for specific forms of violent offending), corporal punishment, suspension from school, information campaigns (especially in relation to substance abuse), diversion to leisure and recreation facilities, fear arousal (e.g. "scare 'em straight") and moral appeals. Many of these are based on single measure interventions and it is now accepted that, to be effective, prevention programmes need to comprise a range of complimentary measures which target the full range of risk factors within the primary domains of a child's life - the family, the school, the peer group and the local neighbourhood - preferably at different developmental stages (early childhood, primary school, adolescence).

It is also recognised that to be effective, programmes must target behavioural change and not just changes in attitudes, values or knowledge. Sometimes failed programmes continue to be funded on the grounds that the evaluation was faulty (which in some cases is justified) or that the effects have not occurred yet (which may also be justifiable in some cases). It is important, however, to ensure that expenditure on interventions which have not been shown to work are curtailed and to do this it is necessary to highlight those interventions which have been shown to be ineffective in a variety of settings.


How cost-effective is criminality prevention?High quality scientific evidence on what works in preventing criminality is scarce and almost entirely restricted to a handful of projects carried out in the USA. Few evaluations provide sufficiently detailed data for a reliable assessment of cost-effectiveness. Welsh (1997) has reviewed the literature on the cost-effectiveness of initiatives to prevent criminality. In all, Welsh found nine studies, all in North America, which provided cost data, of which only seven provided sufficient detail to allow some form of economic analysis. Subjects ranged in age from pre-birth to 18. Most projects targeted children in their early years and most were implemented in the home. All but two of the studies had follow-up periods of 16 months or more. Table 1, which is reproduced in a simplified and slightly modified form from Welsh's review, summarises the available evidence.

Six of the seven studies show a favourable cost-benefit outcome. The economic return on one unit of investment ranged from 1.06 units to 7.16 units. The most promising were found to be those which targeted babies, infants and pre-school children. Savings from reduced crime and delinquency (measured through less involvement with the criminal justice system and fewer victims of crime) accounted for a substantial proportion of the measured benefits. Other monetary benefits included less reliance on welfare payments, more subjects employed (and therefore increased tax revenues), less use of remedial education and less use of security and emergency services.

More recent analyses of the cost-effectiveness of prevention programmes by Karoly et al, (1997) and Aos et al, (1999) provide additional support for their cost-effectiveness. In both analyses, not all benefits are included and estimated savings tend therefore to be lower, but in all cases the benefits were found to outweigh the costs. The only exception is the analysis by Aos et al, (1999) of the Syracuse Family Development Project, which found that the considerable expense of providing free day care for five years resulted in the costs outweighing the benefits by a factor of more than 2 (although again the benefits were underestimated).



This summary report shows that there is considerable evidence of a high scientific standard to demonstrate that a wide range of initiatives which target children, their families, their school and their friends prevent criminality or reduce related risk factors. It has also shown that some of these initiatives are cost-effective, with the best producing substantial returns on an initial investment. Early interventions with children at risk which target not only the children themselves, but also their parents and their schools, are likely to be most beneficial. They deliver multiple outcomes and are potentially therefore far more cost-effective than initiatives whose focus is only to prevent crime (Hawkins and Catalano, 1992).

Most of the evidence cited in this report is based on studies from North America. We cannot be sure that what works in one country will work equally well in another. The widespread ownership of firearms, the absence of public health service, the ethnic minority composition of many inner city areas and the widespread use of drugs are just some of the features of American society which are different from those in Europe. It is important, therefore, that strategies are developed for evaluating preventive interventions in European countries and that, where necessary, a scientific culture is promoted which fosters the independent scientific evaluation of early psychosocial interventions.

Finally, there is still a need to persuade politicians and others involved in the control of crime that investing in prevention should be given greater priority. A study conducted again in the US, has compared the cost-effectiveness of a number of crime control strategies, including early interventions with children and families at risk and the Californian "three strikes and you're out" incarceration programme (Greenwood et al., 1996). In this study, parent training, graduation incentives and delinquent supervision were all found to be more cost-effective than incarceration. Whilst the authors caution against taking these findings at face value, they suggest that shifting resources from the criminal justice and penal system to a more proactive approach may be financially and conceptually sensible and long overdue.


Project Stage of development Risk factors targeted Length of intervention Length of follow-up Outcomes Cost benefit
1. Pre-natal Parenting and family planning 2 years 2 years Reductions in abuse, neglect; improvements in parent-child relations, IQ and parental discipline 1.06
2. Pre-natal and birth Parenting and family planning 4 years


Reductions in abuse and neglect 0.38
3. Age 3-4 Cognitive development 1-2 years 23 years Reductions in arrests & contact with social services; improvements in IQ and school achievement 7.16
4. Age 5-15 years Family environment 32 months 16 months Reductions in arrests; improvements in self concept, pro-social skills & community integration 2.55
5. 15 years (average) Education 4 years 6 months Reductions in arrests & contacts with social services; improvements in school achievement 3.68
6. Age under 15 years


Delinquency and behavioural problems 10 weeks None Reductions in arrests 1.40
7. Age 18 (average) Education, unemploy-ment Not available 18 months (average) Reductions in arrests and substance abuse, improvements in employment, wages & school achievement 1.45

Table 1. ___________________________________________________________________

Key to projects:

1 = Rochester Nurse Home Visitation; 2 = Hawaii Healthy Start; 3 = Perry High/Scope Pre-school; 4 = Participate and Learn Skills (PALS); 5 = Quantum Opportunities; 6 = Los Angeles County Delinquency Prevention; 7 = Job Corps.




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