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Addressing conduct and behavioural problems in childhood

Addressing conduct and behavioural problems in childhood is one of the four drivers of crime priority areas. An inter-agency group, made up of officials from the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Social Development, Ministry of Justice and Te Puni Kōkiri - is working to reduce the impact of conduct and behavioural problems in New Zealand children.

Severe conduct and behavioural problems in childhood are among the most important predictors of later chronic antisocial behaviour, including crime.

International research as well as a growing body of New Zealand academic and practicitioner knowledge informs the inter-agency group's work. The work recognises that addressing behavioural issues at their onset is the most effective opportunity to change future outcomes.

Research suggests that if successful early intervention occurs with the five to ten per cent of children with the most severe conduct and behavioural problems, this has a potential for a 50 to 70 per cent reduction in later adult criminal activity and associated poor life outcomes.

The focus of work seeks to get support in place early for at-risk children, young people and their families.

During the first six months of 2010 the inter-agency group's action focused on:

  1. establishing school-wide programmes to strengthen positive behaviour and reduce bullying and other disruptive behaviour
  2. assisting teachers to prevent, reduce and treat behavioural problems and refer children who need extra support to specialists
  3. supporting parents to build positive relationships with children and manage problem behaviours.
  • preparing to expand mentoring and activity programmes, through Fresh Start for young offenders, and for those at risk of offending
  • determining how best to engage Māori effectively in behaviour services and improve results.

Action of the inter-agency group has identified that services must be holistic, and Māori designed and delivered interventions are needed.

The next phase of action will include:

  • Expanding mentoring and activity programmes for youth offenders
  • Continuing development of behavioural programmes for Māori, with Māori
  • Continuing to implement the Positive Behaviour for Learning Action Plan.

Background information on addressing conduct and behavioural problems in childhood.