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Drawing on parents’ experiences to explore how to prevent high-risk primary school children developing antisocial and criminal behaviour

Stevens, Madeleine (2017) Drawing on parents’ experiences to explore how to prevent high-risk primary school children developing antisocial and criminal behaviour. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.gah9haxnpfy5


Much evidence links early childhood factors to later antisocial and criminal behaviour. However, many ‘at-risk’ children do not develop such behaviours. Some families are subject to intensive intervention from services including social, health, criminal justice and special education services, yet little is known about what aspects of support are useful for the most vulnerable families in the longer term. This mixed methods study investigates parents’ experiences of the full range of services with which they and their children are involved during middle childhood. The major component is a longitudinal five-year qualitative interview study of eleven families, including practitioners parents nominated as helpful. Children were at-risk because of their difficult behaviour and additional family risk factors. Inductive thematic analysis suggested factors which appeared important in changing child behaviour and family functioning. A subset of these factors were further investigated using quantitative longitudinal analysis of a large cohort data set, the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), to examine associations with antisocial and criminal behaviour at ages 16–21. The original contribution to knowledge is identification and explanation of factors influencing how families benefit, or fail to benefit, from intervention. These include the conflicting roles of services tasked with support, reform and surveillance of families. Some parents are skilfully supported to make lasting changes in their parenting behaviour, but non-familial influences such as peers, neighbourhood and school experiences mean improvements in parent-child relationships do not necessarily translate to improvements in the child’s behaviour and wellbeing outside the family. In addition, the study contributes analyses linking middle childhood factors to lower chance of future antisocial and criminal behaviour. These factors include changes in maternal hostility and depression, financial circumstances and children’s relationships with teachers. Findings suggest families could be helped by easier-to-access, on-call, non-judgemental support and, in schools, attention to consistent, supportive relationships.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2017 Madeleine Stevens
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Sets: Departments > Social Policy
Supervisor: Power, Anne and Beecham, Jennifer

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