Preventing Youth Crime at a Whole-of-Community Level by Measuring and Responding to the Social and Emotional Needs of Children

Tara McGee1,Kate Freiberg1, Ross Homel1, Sara Branch1, Jacqueline Homel1 
Griffith University, Mt Gravatt, Brisbane, Australia

The quality of the lives of children living in disadvantaged areas, as reported by children themselves, is seldom measured.  Rumble’s Quest is a fun game for tablets and computers that provides a robust and reliable measure of social-emotional wellbeing for children aged 6 to 12 years. Developed by Kate Freiberg and InVision Media with the support of a range of government and non-government partners, the game is one tool in a sophisticated integrated platform that gives children a voice in a way that maximises the chances that their expressed needs will be addressed by schools, families and community agencies, guided by reliable data. Rumble’s Quest is suitable for use in non-clinical settings with large numbers of children, has been tested for validity and reliability with 8,000 Queensland children, and is being progressively implemented in NSW and Queensland primary schools in 2018. The tool measures factors strongly related to educational success, involvement in antisocial behavior and youth crime, and positive youth development. These include attachment to school; supportive home-family relationships; social and emotional confidence; self-regulation and prosocial behaviour; impulse control; focused attention; and working memory. We describe the development and properties of Rumble’s Quest, present data on the distribution of child wellbeing in Queensland, and describe its use at the suburb (SA2) level, combined with data from the Australian Early Development Census, to measure community child risk and protective factors as a tool for setting goals for community action and the provision of evidence-based services matched to need.


Tara Renae McGee is a developmental and life-course criminologist who’s interested in the development and prevention of antisocial behaviour. She is currently President of ANZSOC and Co-editor of the Journal of Developmental and Life-Course Criminology.

A family stress-proximal process model for understanding the effects of close family member imprisonment on adolescents’ alcohol use

Kirsten Besemer1, Jacqui Homel1, Susan Dennison1, Joyce Arditti2
Griffith University, Mt Gravatt, Brisbane, Australia,2Virginia Tech University, Blacksburg, USA

Research in the US found that the imprisonment of a parent increased children’s risk of heavy alcohol use in adolescence. However, there is currently no research evidence regarding the mechanisms through which these effects may be transmitted. In addition, research has focused only on children affected by the imprisonment of a parent, excluding children affected by the imprisonment of other family members, such as older siblings. Using a new 16-year nationally representative dataset of affected Australian families, we are now able to address these gaps in knowledge.  We use Structural Equation Modelling (SEM) to test a Family Stress-Proximal Process (FSPP) model to understand the effects of close family imprisonment on adolescent alcohol use. Through this model, we explore how psychological and proximal relational processes in families may influence children’s long-term outcomes after a family member is imprisoned.


Kirsten Besemer is a lecturer at Griffith University. Her research uses representative national Australian data sources to identify short- and long-term effects of imprisonment on prisoners’ family members.

Linked Lives: Antisocial Behaviour Across Three Generations

Tara McGee1, Jake Najman3, William Bor3
1Griffith University, Mt Gravatt, Brisbane, Australia, 3The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia

This study aims to assess antisocial behaviour transmitted across 3 generations, to document the predictors of this intergenerational transmission and to describe how antisocial behaviour is changing over generations.

The Mater-University Study of Pregnancy began as a study of 7223 mother-child pairs of children born at the Mater Hospital in Brisbane from 1981-1984. The mothers (generation one (G1) and their children (G2) have been followed up from the pre-natal period until when the G2 children were 30 years old. The data for this research come from the most recent wave of data collection; the children of the children, or generation three (G3).

Only a minority of G3 respondents who have experienced ASB in their parents (G2) or grandparents (G1) will themselves manifest antisocial behaviour. We propose that ASB will be more common in families with a pattern (in G1 and G2) of marital conflict and/or marital breakdown. There is a causal pathway which links marital instability to specific patterns of parenting (eg. reduced vigilance and supervision of child) which, in turn, is associated with increased levels of antisocial behaviour in offspring (G3). A series of analyses will result in a combined model that will quantify the residual association between marital discord and G3 anti-social behaviour, with potential modification by parenting variables. Appropriate confounders e.g. grandparental/parental age, education, occupation, will be used.


Tara Renae McGee is a developmental and life-course criminologist who’s interested in the development and prevention of antisocial behaviour. She is currently President of ANZSOC and Co-editor of the Journal of Developmental and Life-Course Criminology.

Does Family Support Reduce Youth Crime in Socially Disadvantaged Communities?

Ross Homel1, Kate Freiberg1, Jacqueline Homel1, Sara Branch1, Daniela Vasco1, Samantha Low-Choy1
1Griffith University, Mt Gravatt, Brisbane, Australia,

The long-term effects on children of routine family support in disadvantaged communities are not known. Pathways to Prevention (2002-2011) was a comprehensive early prevention initiative centred on family support, delivered by Mission Australia in partnership with Griffith University and seven schools in a disadvantaged area of Brisbane, Australia. We report effects on child social-emotional wellbeing and classroom behaviour (Grades 1-7), and on offending (10-16 years).

Offending data for 615 children who were preschoolers in 2002-3, were obtained from Youth Justice Queensland. Risk factors were measured by survey at the transition to high school for 58% of these children. Teachers used a validated instrument to assess classroom behavior annually. Children reported their own wellbeing using an interactive computer game, developed by the researchers, which yields four psychometrically valid measures. Using coarsened exact matching, subsamples of children whose parents received Pathways support between Grades 1 and 7 were matched with non-Pathways children on: baseline scores on the dependent variables; age; gender; ethnicity; and child-reported level of adversity. Changes in behavior and wellbeing in intervention and control groups were compared using Bayesian multilevel modeling. Because offender numbers were low (6%), tree models fit using recursive partitioning helped explore effects on offending.

Pathways reduced crime for most ethnic groups through improved classroom behavior, social-emotional confidence, and supportive home relationships, but did not improve attachment to school. Family support has many benefits for disadvantaged children and parents, but to maximize impact on youth crime it should incorporate evidence-based activities that specifically address key risk factors.


Ross Homel has a special interest in improving the lives of children and families in disadvantaged communities. He analyses crime, violence, and related social problems, and develops and tests evidence-based ways of preventing these problems.

Exploring a cross-over list:- responses to children caught between youth justice and child protection systems

Magistrate Jennifer BowlesDr Susan Baidawi2, Prof. Rosemary Sheehan2
1Churchill Trust, Malvern, Australia

Magistrate Bowles was awarded a Churchill Fellowship to explore options for providing therapeutic treatment services to young people suffering from severe substance misuse issues. One of the recommendations of her Fellowship Report entitled ‘What Can Be Done…’ was the establishment of a crossover list in the Children’s Court of Victoria to ensure a holistic approach is adopted in relation to young people who are the subject of proceedings in both the Criminal and Family (child protection) Divisions of the Court. Magistrate Bowles draws on her observations of the Crossover Court in New Zealand. Magistrate Bowles will discuss the rationale for the recommendation and progress to date.


Jennifer Bowles has been a Victorian Magistrate for 20 years. The majority of this time has been spent in the Children’s Court of Victoria. She was awarded a Churchill Fellowship in 2014 to explore treatment options for young people suffering from severe substance misuse issues. Magistrate Bowles is an associate researcher regarding the establishment of a ‘crossover list’.

Dr Susan Baidawi is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Social Work, Monash University, Melbourne. Her research spans aspects of the child protection, youth justice and adult justice systems. Her research interests include ageing in prison, and the nexus between child maltreatment, child protection involvement, and youth offending.

Professor Rosemary Sheehan works in the Department of Social Work, Monash University, Melbourne.  She has 17 years’ experience as a Dispute Resolution Convenor in the Children’s Court of Victoria. Professor Sheehanteaches mental health and researches in child welfare and the law, mental health, and corrections responses to women offenders.



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