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The impact of structural, systemic and social inequalities in childhood on adolescent offending and early adult criminal conviction


The factors that determine young people’s involvement in offending and youth justice are multiple and complex, which makes it difficult to know what type of policy response is likely to be most effective.  Scotland has prioritised policies aimed at reducing child poverty, improving trauma informed practice and minimising the impact of formal system contact amongst those who get involved in offending.  But which is most likely to be effective and for what?  This paper examines data from the Edinburgh Study of Youth Transitions and Crime to explore the relationship between early childhood experiences, offending in adolescence and criminal conviction in early adulthood.

Types of inequalities

Poverty, Adverse Childhood Experiences, Formal System Contact, Gender


This research involves the use of latent class growth analysis (LCGA) and multinomial regression modelling.


Early poverty, trauma and formal system contact in childhood are all predictive of teenage offending, which in turn is predictive of criminal conviction.  Poverty is particularly predictive of offending amongst girls, while ACEs are particularly predictive of persistent serious offending amongst boys. Moreover, early poverty and formal system contact have an incremental effect on criminal conviction (especially persistent and chronic criminal careers); however, adverse childhood experiences do not.

Policy implications

Multi-dimensional policy approaches are needed to effectively prevent young offending but that these are likely to differ for boys and girls.  Current Scottish Government policy responses are a step in the right direction, but it remains to be seen whether they are working effectively in a holistic way.

This paper is in development. If you have any questions regarding this research, please contact Professor Susan McVie

Research Team