3.1.1 Early risk factors

Research over the last three decades has resulted in a wealth of knowledge explaining why it is that some young people commence on a pathway that leads to persistent offending, while most do not do so, or do so only trivially.

The childhood antecedents of chronic adult offending include the following key factors:

  • Family structure, context, and processes: examples include being born to young mothers, a lack of family stability, a family environment in which conflict and violence is common, and being exposed to harsh punishment.
  • Individual characteristics of the developing child and adolescent: these include factors affecting the child’s neurological development, and psychological temperament.
  • Educational participation, engagement and achievement: factors here include school absence, early leaving age and failure to achieve qualifications.
  • The emergence of developmental disorders: included here are childhood conduct disorder, early onset of antisocial behaviour, and abuse of alcohol and other substances during adolescence.

In this section, each of these factors is examined in turn along with available data on the extent to which Māori are disproportionately represented.