Anti-social and other problem behaviours among young children: findings from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children

Document type
Bowen, Erica; Heron, Jon; Steer, Colin
Home Office
Date of publication
1 July 2008
Home Office online report; 02/08
Children and Young People, Community Development and Regeneration, Social Policy
Social welfare
Material type

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This report presents the findings of a longitudinal survey regarding patterns of anti-social behaviour, and resilience to involvement in anti-social behaviour, in young children. The majority of children in the sample (70%) did not report involvement in any anti-social or other problem behaviours at the two assessment time points: at age 8½ when children were asked if they had ever been involved in anti-social and other problem behaviours; and at age 10½ when they were asked if they had been involved in anti-social or other problem behaviours in the previous six months. More males than females reported involvement in anti-social or other problem behaviours. Males also reported involvement in a greater number of these behaviours than females. Involvement in a number of types of behaviour up to age 8½ significantly increased the likelihood of involvement in further anti-social and other types of problem behaviour at age 10½. These behaviours were: smoking a cigarette; setting fire to property; carrying a weapon in case of a fight; and drinking alcohol without parental permission. This suggests a strong association rather than a causal relationship. From the sample of children said to be at high risk of involvement in anti-social and other problem behaviours, 88 per cent were defined as being resilient, that is, despite being in the high risk group they nevertheless reported involvement in no or only one type of anti-social and other problem behaviours up to the age of 8½. In comparison with the remaining high-risk children, the resilient children had significantly fewer peer problems; higher IQs and self-esteem; greater levels of school enjoyment and lower levels of family adversity. Gender was found to be significantly associated with resilience – girls were more likely to be resilient than boys.

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