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

Criminology Research Council grant ; (26/03-04)

The United States of America (USA) has substantially higher rates of incarceration rates than Australia, including those in juvenile detention. This could be explained in two ways: first, there may be higher levels of problematic behaviour in the USA than Australia; or second, there may be policy differences in the responses to problematic behaviour, with more punitive approaches in the USA. This important project has drawn on longitudinal, cross-national data from state-representative samples of 5,769 students recruited in 2002 when they were in school years 5, 7 and 9 in Victoria, Australia and Washington State, USA. The objectives of this project were to: examine the frequency of antisocial behaviour and societal responses to antisocial behaviour (e.g. arrests, school suspensions) in each state; and investigate the risk and protective factors that predict subsequent antisocial behaviour, as well as exploring the influence of societal responses, controlling for other factors. The project has met all of the objectives and found that the frequency of antisocial behaviour in the two states was comparable (with small differences for specific antisocial acts). However, more punitive societal responses to antisocial behaviour were found in Washington than in Victoria. The findings suggest the existence of policy differences between the two states such that students exhibiting a similar level of antisocial behaviour in Washington State are more likely to be exposed to punitive societal responses.