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Predictors of violence, antisocial behaviour and relational aggression in Australian adolescents : a longitudinal study

Abstract

This is a report on a project funded by the Criminology Research Council. The study aimed to contrast predictors of antisocial behaviour in an Australian sample with those from a comparable US sample, in order to add to understanding of the relevance of US crime prevention science, including the developmental pathways approach, for Australia. Using data collected in 2002 and 2003 from the International Youth Development Study, a large longitudinal cross national study of Years 5, 7 and 9 school students in Victoria and Washington State, USA, the study examines the frequency of antisocial behaviour in Victoria relative to Washington State, and aims to identify individual, family and peer predictors of antisocial behaviour. The project also examines societal responses to antisocial behaviour, such as arrests and school suspensions, and their impact on subsequent antisocial behaviour. The findings of the study have been reported in two papers. The first, entitled 'A comparison of rates of adolescent antisocial behaviour, school suspensions and arrests in Victoria, Australia relative to Washington State, USA', found that although the levels of antisocial behaviour are similar in the two states, Washington State adopts more punitive measures such as school suspensions and arrests. The second paper, entitled 'How similar are the predictors of adolescent antisocial behaviour in Australia and the United States?', found that the experience of school suspension increased the risk of antisocial behaviour one year later, after controlling for other known risk factors, while a similar effect was noted for arrests. Consistent with existing studies, a number of individual and family characteristics were found to be important in the development of antisocial behaviour. The report draws out the implications of these findings for future research and for policy development. The results of the project suggest, among other things, that punitive approaches to antisocial behaviour with youth may be counter productive, and that it is important to keep students connected to school and to minimise early contact with law enforcement authorities.

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