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Developmental approaches to child and adolescent offending emphasise the role of individual and psychological factors when explaining the onset of offending, as well as the role of early risk and protective factors on future offending. This chapter will look at incidence and prevalence of young offending including the age crime curve; risk and protective factors; some key theoretical approaches; and interventions. In England and Wales (2018/19), 60,208 arrests of notifiable offences were made to those aged 10-17 years. Interventions that limit social experiences at the critical age of adolescence have not been shown as effective, with two thirds of young offenders in secure environments re-offending within 12 months. Secure schools, specialist foster care and the ‘child first’ approach aim to provide an environment in which children and adolescents feel secure, whilst promoting a positive learning environment. This may enhance confidence that the young offender can break the cycle of offending.
The largest cohort study on the development delinquency and criminality in the UK found that convicted delinquents are more likely to have experienced poor parenting, characterized by harsh or erratic parental discipline, neglectful parental attitudes, parental conflicts and lax supervision in their childhood. The statutory age limits adopted by juvenile courts, which deal with children and adolescents who have committed legal offences vary between countries. It is difficult to ascertain the true extent of child and youth offending due to the limitations of each information source. It is claimed that the prevention of delinquency, criminal behaviour and reoffending can be achieved by interventions that alleviate risk factors and strengthen protective factors. At the individual level, support for academic work and cognitive-behavioural intervention is provided for children identified as being at risk. Early intervention is preferable to tackling a young person's problems once they have begun.