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The language processing and production skills of young offenders : implications for enhancing prevention and intervention strategies

Abstract

This is a report on a project partially funded by the Criminology Research Council. The original title of the project, in the name of Pamela Snow and Martine Powell, was 'The language processing and production skills of young offenders : implications for enhancing prevention and intervention strategies'. The study examined the oral language processing and production skills of a group of 30 young male offenders completing community based juvenile justice orders. The performance of this group was compared with that of a group of 50 males attending state government secondary schools in the same region of metropolitan Melbourne. In spite of the fact that the young offenders studied were an average of two years older than the comparison group, they performed significantly more poorly on all but one of the measures employed. The findings indicate that young offenders are at high risk for difficulties with auditory processing, manipulating and understanding abstract linguistic concepts, and have difficulty using story grammar to generate a simple narrative. These findings have implications in three broad domains: forensic interviewing of young offenders; early intervention for young children who display comorbid learning and behaviour disturbances; and service delivery at the program level for young offenders engaged with the juvenile justice system. The study also articulates the implications of these findings for further research. These pertain principally to examining the relationship between language skills and social skill, and exploring the ways in which the findings can be applied to service delivery models within the juvenile justice system.

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