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Criminal Behaviour and Mental Health 21: 128135 (2011) Published online in Wiley Online Library (wileyonlinelibrary.

com) DOI: 10.1002/cbm.803

The linkage between childhood bullying behaviour and future offending


DEPENG JIANG1,2, MARGARET WALSH3 AND LEENA K. AUGIMERI3, 1 Department of Community Health Sciences, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada; 2The Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada; 3Centre for Children Committing Offences and Program Development, Child Development Institute, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. ABSTRACT Aim To examine the linkage between bullying behaviour in early childhood and any subsequent contact with the criminal justice system. Methods A Canadian sample (570 boys and 379 girls) was derived from clients who participated in the evidenced-based programme, SNAP (STOP NOW AND PLAN), between 2001 and 2009. A court order was obtained to access any criminal record data on participants. The Early Assessment Risk Lists (EARL-20B and EARL-21G) and the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) were used to identify level of risk and bullying behaviour. Outcome variables included age the child rst came in contact with the criminal justice system and frequency. Results Logistic and Cox regression analyses indicate that the risk of onset of criminal offence for bullies was signicantly higher than for non-bullies. The hazard of criminal offence for bullies is 1.9 times (95% CI: 1.13.2) than that of non-bullies. This holds true even when adjusted for age, gender and other risk factors. Conclusion We found a strong linkage between bullying behaviour during childhood and subsequent criminal offending after the age of 12. Criminal convictions for bullies were nearly twice as high for non-bullies up to the childs 18th birthday. EARLs were effective in differentiating risk associated with bullying. Copyright 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Introduction In the general population there are a group of young children, under the age of 12, who exhibit aggressive, antisocial or conduct problems. In Canada, such children fall under the jurisdiction of child welfare versus criminal justice legislation (the age of criminal responsibility in Canada is twelve). It has been found

Copyright 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd

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that serious and persistent antisocial behaviour (e.g. bullying, lying, stealing) often starts in early childhood with a number of identied risk factors linked to future aggressive and violent behaviour.

Method Participants This paper examines the linkage between bullying behaviour in early childhood and any subsequent contact these children may have with the criminal justice system. The sample was derived from clients who participated in a SNAP (STOP NOW AND PLAN) programme. The SNAP model is designed specically for young children in conict with the law and/or children with conduct problems. It is an evidence-based, manualised, multi-component cognitive behavioural intervention developed at the Child Development Institute (CDI),1 Toronto, Canada. SNAP helps children and parents deal effectively with anger by teaching them to stop and think before they act responding in a way that makes their problems smaller, not bigger. The programme utilises an ecological framework focusing on the individual child, family, school and community. The agship model, the SNAP Under 12 Outreach Project, was initially launched in 1985, serving both boys and girls. In 1996, the programme became gender specic with the introduction of the SNAP Girls Connection. SNAP has undergone stringent evaluations (see Augimeri et al., 2007; Pepler et al., 2010) with positive treatment effects. The model is now being replicated in a number of countries. Participants were admitted into SNAP between 2001 and 2009 at either CDI or at Banyan Community Service (SNAP Afliate site in Hamilton, Ontario). Participants met the following admission criteria: (a) 611 years of age; (b) score in the clinical range (70 or greater) on the externalising or conduct scales on a screening intake measure, the Brief Child and Family Phone Interview (Cunningham et al., 2009); or (c) had police contact. Children were excluded from the programme if they demonstrated a signicant developmental delay. For the current data analyses, participants were also excluded if: (a) date of birth was not available, (b) missing data on bullying and/or (c) were younger than 12 by December 2009 (when criminal record data was collected). The resulting sample is comprised of 949 children (570 boys and 379 girls). Mean age at the time of referral was 9.5 years (SD = 1.5) with a large segment of the sample raised by either a single or divorced parent (42.4%), or a third raised by married parents (30.9%).
1

Services described in this document were created at Earlscourt Child and Family Centre. In 2004, the Centre merged with another organisation forming the Child Development Institute.

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Measures Child behaviours The Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) is a standardised parent report used to rate children on 118 items measuring their emotional and behavioural functioning (Achenbach and Rescorla, 2001). Each item is rated on a three-point scale (0 = not true, 1 = somewhat true, 2 = true). Items assess externalising and internalising behaviours and include a number of subscales: Oppositional, Conduct, Social Problems, and Attention Decit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The range of internal consistency of the CBCL is from 0.78 to 0.97. Testretest reliabilities have been between 0.95 and 0.98 for males, and from 0.43 to 0.99 for females over a 14-week period. The inter-rater reliability ranges from 0.93 to 0.96. Concurrent validity of the CBCL is considered satisfactory (Sattler, 2002). Bullying behaviour To identify those children who were engaging in bullying behaviours, we used the CBCL item # 16 that asks parents if their child shows any cruelty, bullying and/ or meanness to others. For this current analysis, we dichotomised the rating of the item as a no (score of 0) or yes (score of 1), such that not true and somewhat true corresponds to a score of 0 and true corresponds to a score of 1. Risk assessment Although rigorous research has been conducted on risk factors known to contribute to anti-social behaviour trajectories (e.g. Howell, 2003; Lahey et al., 2003), there has been little prior research on risk assessment for young children (Augimeri et al., 2010). In an effort to address this gap, researchers and practitioners at the Centre for Children Committing Offences housed at the CDI developed a comprehensive psychosocial risk assessment framework, Early Assessment Risk Lists (EARL-20B for boys, Augimeri et al., 2001; EARL-21G for girls, Levene et al., 2001). These tools specically focus on young children, 611 years of age, with anti-social behaviour problems and/or have been in conict with the law (Augimeri et al., 2011; Koegl et al., 2008). The EARLs have a threefold purpose: (1) to help increase clinicians and researchers understanding of early childhood risk factors; (2) to help clinicians systematically identify and clinically manage risk with appropriate treatment plans and (3) to improve the reliability and validity in predicting future delinquent behaviour. Thus, the aim of the EARLs is to balance clinical utility (e.g. service planning, resource allocation) with prediction (see Augimeri et al., 2011). Research on the EARLs has revealed that clinicians nd them to be effective decision-enhancing tools (Enebrink et al., 2006).

Copyright 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd

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The EARLs are divided into three main categories: family, child and responsivity domains. Family items assess the extent to which the child has been nurtured, supported and supervised, as well as assessing the overall level of supports and stressors the family is encountering and the extent to which its members may endorse or participate in anti-social activities/criminality. Child items assess, for example, the childs neighbourhood and the extent to which he or she may be experiencing conduct, impulsivity, developmental and/or academic concerns and is socially responsible. The Responsivity items assess the ability and willingness of the child and family to engage in services and treatment plans. Most of the EARL-21G risk items parallel the EARL-20B items, although the content and rating of some items differ as research literature revealed gender differences in the manifestation and inuence of risk factors. Each of the risk factors are rated zero (0), one (1) or two (2). A rating of 0 indicates that the characteristic or circumstance is not evident. A rating of 2 indicates that the characteristic or circumstance is present, and a rating of 1 indicates that there is some, but not complete, evidence for the factor. The scores of the EARL-20B and EARL-21G items can be summed up into a total range between 040 and 042, respectively. The Cronbachs s for family, child and responsiveness subscales were 0.74, 0.73 and 0.62, respectively (see Augimeri et al., 2010). Criminal record data A court order was obtained to access any criminal record data on the participants. Names and date of birth were submitted to both the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services. The primary outcome variable is whether the child came in contact with the criminal justice system for their own misbehaviour and at what age. We also compared bullies versus non-bullies in term of the following information: (a) the number and severity of offences; (b) the number, and types of disposition(s) received and (c) the number of times the youth presented before the courts to receive a disposition. Results The Kaplan-Meier survival analysis was used to compare the risk of onset of criminal offence after the age of 12 for those participants using the identied CBCL item, cruelty, bullying and meanness to others. Participants were classied as a bully if given a rating of 2 on the CBCL or as a non-bully if given a rating of 0 or 1. We conducted multivariable Cox regression analyses (Cox proportional hazards model) to examine whether childhood bullying behaviours are associated with the onset of criminal offence, controlling for age at referral, gender and other risk factors (Vittinghoff et al., 2001). We also conducted univariate and multivariable logistic regression analyses to compare the risk of one or more

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criminal offences between the ages of 12 and 18 for bullies versus non-bullies with or without controlling for age, onset of antisocial behaviour, gender and other risk factors. Statistical analyses were performed using SAS Version 9.2 (SAS Institute, Cary, NC, USA). All p value were two-tailed and a p value less than 0.05 were regarded as being signicant. The Students t-test and the chi-square test were used to compare bullies and non-bullies at admission on the EARL risk factors and other problematic behaviours in childhood such as Oppositional, Conduct, Social Problems and ADHD. Table 1 shows that the two groups did not differ in regards to age, however, gender was found to be signicant with a larger representation of males. Also, bullies had higher EARL Family, Child and Total risk scores and had more serious levels of problematic behaviours than non-bullies. Among the 260 bullies, 24 (9.2%) had at least one ofcial criminal conviction before the age of 18. There were 42 criminal records among the 24 offenders. The charges include assault, breaking and entering, theft, weapon, mischief and drug offences. The mean age of offence for bullies is 14.4 years of age. Among the 689 non-bullies, 35 (5.1%) were found to have a criminal record before age 18. There were 67 criminal records among these 35 offenders. The mean age of offence for non-bullies is similar to bullies. The bullies reported signicantly higher incidence rates (3.39 per 100 person-years) compared with non-bullies (1.77 per 100 person-years). Table 2 reports results from both univariate and multivariable logistic regression analyses. From Table 2, we nd that the odds of onset of

Table 1: Characteristics of study participants Variable Bullies n = 260 9.4(1.5) 174 (66.9%) 20.7 (4.9) 6.3 (2.3) 13.5 (3.5) 0.9 (1.0) 78.1 (4.1) 68.7 (9.1) 80.7 (6.5) 69.3 (7.7) 75.0 (5.2) 71.4 (9.7) Non-bullies n = 689 9.5(1.5) 396 (57.5%) 18.3 (6.6) 5.7 (2.6) 11.8 (5.2) 0.9 (1.0) 70.1 (7.1) 63.9 (10.0) 70.7 (7.5) 65.0 (8.7) 68.5 (7.7) 65.5 (9.4) p value

Age at admission, mean (SD) Male, n (%) Total EARL Score, mean (SD) Family subscale, mean (SD) Child subscale, mean (SD) Responsiveness subscale, mean (SD) Parents reports on CBCL Externalising, mean (SD) Internalising, mean (SD) Conduct, mean (SD) ADHD, mean (SD) Oppositional deant, mean (SD) Social problem, mean (SD) * p < 0.05 ** p < 0.01 *** p < 0.001

0.72 0.008** 0.001*** 0.001*** 0.001*** 0.70 0.001*** 0.001*** 0.001*** 0.001*** 0.001*** 0.001***

Copyright 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd

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Table 2: Factors associated with odds of future offence before age 18 Variable Unadjusted odds ratios (95% CI) Bullies versus non-bullies Female Age at referral Family subscale Child subscale Responsiveness subscale CI, condence interval. 1.90 (1.113.26) 0.47 (0.290.90) 1.45 (1.181.78) 1.18 (1.071.31) 1.03 (0.991.06) 1.53 (1.211.94) p value 0.020 0.021 <0.001 0.001 0.169 <0.001 Adjusted odds ratios (95% CI) 1.92 (1.083.41) 0.40 (0.200.82) 1.46 (1.181.79) 1.27 (1.121.43) 0.96 (0.891.04) 1.39 (1.081.80) p value 0.027 0.012 <0.001 <0.001 0.342 0.012

Figure 1: Estimated probability of having an offence in association with bullying

criminal offence for bullies were 1.90 times more likely than for non-bullies (95% CI: 1.113.26). This holds true even when we controlled for age, gender and other risk factors at childhood (95% CI: 1.083.41). Figure 1 displays the results from the Kaplan-Meier survival analysis. It shows the estimated probability of bullies (28%) versus non-bullies (10%) having an offence by age 18. Table 3 reports results from both univariate and multivariable Cox regression analyses. The risk of onset of criminal offence for bullies was signicantly higher than non-bullies. Table 3 indicates that the hazard of criminal offence for bullies is 1.9 times (95% CI: 1.13.2) than that of non-bullies. This holds true even when adjusted for age, gender, and other risk factors (EARL Family, Child and Responsiveness risk scores). Table 3 also indicates that girls

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Table 3: Factors associated with risk of future offence before age 18 Variable Unadjusted hazard ratios (95% CI) Bullies versus non-bullies Female Age at referral Family subscale Child subscale Responsiveness subscale CI, condence interval. 1.91 (1.133.20) 0.39 (0.220.71) 1.11 (0.911.35) 1.12 (1.021.23) 1.02 (0.991.04) 1.40 (1.121.74) p value Adjusted hazard ratios (95% CI) 1.75 (1.032.99) 0.36 (0.180.70) 1.06 (0.871.29) 1.18 (1.051.32) 0.98 (0.921.05) 1.26 (0.991.61) p value

0.015 0.002 0.322 0.020 0.248 0.003

0.04 0.003 0.561 0.005 0.642 0.061

are less likely to have subsequent ofcial criminal involvement than boys. Those with higher Family risk scores were at greater risk of having subsequent ofcial criminal involvements. The multivariable Cox regression analyses were conducted for boys and girls separately. The results indicates that for boy bullies, the estimated hazard of subsequent criminal offence by age 18 is 2.2 times (95% CI: 1.24.0) that for those non-bullying boys. However, because of the small number of reported offences and relative small sample size for girls, we are unable to nd the statistically signicant relationship between childhood bullying behaviour and subsequent risk of criminal offence for girls. In summary, we found a strong linkage between bullying behaviour during childhood and subsequent criminal offence after the age of 12. Compared with non-bullies, the bullies had elevated levels of behaviours and risks during childhood. The risk of having one or more subsequent criminal convictions up to the 18th birthday for bullies was nearly twice as high for non-bullies even when we controlled for age, gender, and other risk factors at childhood. Clinically, this speaks to the importance of being able to identify early, children who may engage in bullying behaviour and associated risks using multiple sources of information (e.g. CBCL and EARLs). Findings indicated that the EARLs were effective in identifying unique risk factors that differentiated bullies from non-bullies. Since their inception they have been translated in numerous languages and used for research and clinical practice to aid in assessment and clinical risk management with this population. References
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Augimeri LK, Koegl CJ, Webster CD, Levene K (2001) Early Assessment Risk List for Boys: EARL20B, Version 2. Toronto, ON: Earlscourt Child and Family Centre (now called Child Development Institute). Augimeri LK, Farrington DP, Koegl CJ, Day DM (2007) The Under 12 Outreach Project: Effects of a community based program for children with conduct problems. Journal of Child and Family Studies 16: 799807. Published Online, 10 January 2007. DOI: 10.1007/s10826-006-9126-x. Augimeri LK, Enebrink P, Walsh M, Jiang D (2010) Gender-specic Childhood risk assessment tools: Early assessment risk lists for boys (EARL-20B) and Girls (EARL-21G). In Otto RK, Douglas KS (eds) Handbook of Violence Risk Assessment. Oxford, UK: Routledge, Taylor & Francis pp. 4362. Augimeri LK, Walsh MM, Liddon AD, Dassinger CR (2011) From risk identication to risk management: A comprehensive strategy for young children engaged in antisocial behaviour. In Springer DW, Roberts, A (eds) Juvenile Justice and Delinquency. Sudbury, Massachusetts, United States: Jones & Bartlett pp. 117140. Cunningham CE, Boyle MH, Hong S, Pettingill P, Bohaychuk D (2009) The Brief Child and Family Phone Interview (BCFPI): 1. Rationale, development, and description of a computerized childrens mental health intake and outcome assessment tool. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines 50: 416423. Enebrink P, Lngstrm N, Gumpert CH (2006) Predicting aggressive and disruptive behaviour in referred 6- to 12-year-old boys: Prospective validation of the EARL-20B Risk/Needs Checklist. Assessment 13: 356367. DOI: 10.1177/1073191106290649. Koegl CJ, Augimeri LK, Ferrante P, Walsh M, Slater N (2008) A Canadian programme for child delinquents. In Loeber R, Slot NW, van der Laan P, Hoeve M (eds) Tomorrows Criminals: The Development of Child Delinquency and Effective Interventions. Aldershot: Ashgate pp. 285300. Howell JC (2003) Preventing and Reducing Juvenile Delinquency. A Comprehensive Framework. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Lahey B, Moftt TE, Caspi A (2003) The Causes of Conduct Disorder and Serious Juvenile Delinquency. New York: Guilford Press. Levene KS, Augimeri LK, Pepler DJ, Walsh MM, Webster CD, Koegl CJ (2001) Early Assessment Risk List for Girls EARL-21G Version 1- Consultation Edition. Toronto: Earlscourt Child and Family Center. Pepler D, Walsh M, Yuile A, Levene K, Vaughan A, Webber J (2010) Bridging the Gender Gap: Interventions with Aggressive Girls and Their Parents. Prevention Science 11: 229238. Published online, 27 January 2010. DOI: 10.1007/s11121-009-0167-4. Sattler JM (2002) Assessment of Children: Behavioural and Clinical Applications (4th edition). San Diego: Jerome M. Sattler, Publisher, Inc. Vittinghoff E, Glidden DV, Shiboski SC, McCulloch CE (2001) Regression Methods in Biostatistics: Linear, Logistic, Survival, and Repeated Measures Methods. New York: Springer.

Address correspondence to: Leena K. Augimeri, Director, Centre for Children Committing Offences and Program Development, Child Development Institute and University of Toronto, Centre for Children Committing Offences, Child Development Institute, 46 St. Clair Gardens, Toronto, Ontario, M6E 3V4, Canada. Email: laugimeri@childdevelop.ca. Telephone: 416-603-1827 ext 3112. Fax: 416-654-8996

Copyright 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd

21: 128135 (2011)

DOI: 10.1002/cbm