CM(2000)113 Addendum II
16 August 2000
720 Meeting, 13 September
10 Legal questions
10.1c European Committee on Crime Problems
(CDPC)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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 Childrens 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)....
For the purposes of this Recommendation:
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;
- "prevention of criminality"
- "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
- "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
- "holders of parental responsibilities" means
parents and other persons or bodies entitled to exercise some or all parental
II. Programmes of early psychosocial intervention in
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
- 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
- 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
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
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.
11. Statutory as well as other arrangements should be
developed for the provision of a wide range of programmes for early intervention to
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
- minimum intervention: interventions are appropriate and the least
- proportionality : interventions are commensurate with the degree of
- 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
16. Early intervention strategies should include specific provision for
initial and in-service training for those involved in co-ordinating, delivering and
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
in the prevention of criminality
Background to early psychosocial intervention in the prevention of
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
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
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
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.
II. COMMENTARY ON THE PREAMBLE TO THE RECOMMENDATION
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
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
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
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
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 Childrens Rights, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the
Child and the UN Riyadh Guidelines for the Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency.
III. COMMENTARY ON THE APPENDIX TO THE RECOMMENDATION
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
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
Early psychosocial intervention programmes need to achieve two
key objectives: the reduction of risk factors and the promotion of protective factors in
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
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
childrens lives. Equally, there are specific phases or transitions in
childrens 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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 childrens 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
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.
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.
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
Chapter IV Implementation
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.
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.
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
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.
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
- special funding is provided to fill gaps in provision and develop
- 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
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.
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
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 states 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.
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
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).
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
- 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
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
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
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
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
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.
||Stage of development
||Risk factors targeted
||Length of intervention
||Length of follow-up
||Parenting and family planning
||Reductions in abuse, neglect; improvements in
parent-child relations, IQ and parental discipline
||Pre-natal and birth
||Parenting and family planning
|Reductions in abuse and neglect
||Reductions in arrests & contact with
social services; improvements in IQ and school achievement
||Age 5-15 years
||Reductions in arrests; improvements in self
concept, pro-social skills & community integration
||15 years (average)
||Reductions in arrests & contacts with
social services; improvements in school achievement
||Age under 15 years
|Delinquency and behavioural problems
||Reductions in arrests
||Age 18 (average)
||18 months (average)
||Reductions in arrests and substance abuse,
improvements in employment, wages & school achievement
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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