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Early Intervention Programs as a Crime Reducing Intervention

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   By: Justin S. N. Boodhoo

   2013-10-08 11:58 AM

As the father to a three-year-old boy, I have seen firsthand the importance of integrating children into the education system at an early age. More and more focus is put on teaching emotional regulation, cognitive development, and appropriate social skills in order to prepare our young people for their future. Looking at early childhood interventions (ECI) from a research lens has shown that, “early childhood interventions have demonstrated consistent positive effects on children’s health and well-being” (Reynolds, Temple, Ou, Robertson, Mersky, Topitzes, & Niles, 2007, p. 730).

Although these positive impacts vary, one important aspect to look at is the long-term positive implications on lower rates of delinquency and crime, which were revealed up to 3 decades later in study aimed at looking at the success of ECI (Reynolds et al., 2007). This same study showed that in the group involved in ECI, at the age of 24 years old, these participants had lower felony arrests and lower incarceration rates than the comparison groups (Reynolds et al., 2007).

School-based intervention programs as noted by Farrington & Welsh (2003), “emphasize intellectual enrichment and skills training” (as cited in Cohen, Piquero, & Jennings, 2010, p. 396). Another example showing the success of early intervention aimed at high-risk three and four-year-olds not only confirmed fewer arrests for the experimental group but that these children were more likely to graduate high school (Cohen et al., 2010), which is likely to lead to a better paying job compared to a person who does not graduate.  As part of ECI, it is crucial that high quality, active learning be incorporated into the environment in order to decrease both violent and non-violent arrests, along with a higher rate of graduation (Cohen et al., 2010).

The last study we examine analyzes the Seattle social development project, which was a multi-school, longitudinal study involving a broad range of demographics of 605 students (Hawkins, Kosterman, Catalano, Hill, & Abbott, 2005). This model aimed to prove that by providing youth opportunities for involvement, ensuring that youth can develop competency or skills for participation, and providing skilful participation, this can cultivate strong bonds which, in turn, produce strong bonds of attachment, positive educational development leading to more positive outcomes (Hawkins et al., 2005).

Core elements of the Seattle project focused on, “the use of interactive teaching and cooperative learning. This teacher training and focus on child social and emotional skill development was also supplemented with parent-training exercises” (Cohen et al., 2010). The unique feature of this ECI was the component involving the parent-training exercises, which for a parent can be very empowering, while being supportive and nurturing to a child during these early years in school. The long-term positive outcomes of this ECI again showed less involvement in crime, specifically at the age of 21 (Cohen et al., 2010).

This previous body of research shows the effectiveness of ECI as a form of crime reduction. It also reveals the power that family and educational figures have on the ability to support, nurture, and develop young people in an attempt to stray them away from high-risk behaviours. In the next article we will take a look at social capital as a school-based intervention to reduce crime.

 

References

Cohen, M.A., Piquero, A.R., and Jennings, W. (2010). Estimating the costs of bad outcomes for at-risk youth and the benefits of early childhood interventions to reduce them. Criminal Justice Policy Review, 21(4), 391-434.

Hawkins, J. D., Kosterman, R., Catalano, R. F., Hill, K. G., & Abbott, R. D. (2005). Promoting positive adult functioning through social development intervention in childhood: long-term effects from the Seattle social development project. Archives of Paediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, 159(1), 25.

Reynolds, A. J., Temple, J. A., Ou, S. R., Robertson, D. L., Mersky, J. P., Topitzes, J. W., & Niles, M. D. (2007). Effects of a school-based, early childhood intervention on adult health and well-being: A 19-year follow-up of low-income families. Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, 161(8), 730.


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