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Understanding Childhood Adversity, Resilience and Crime

News Posted: 2nd July 2018

The Scottish Government have published an easy to read 4 page review setting out a summary of the evidence on the links between childhood adversity and criminality and victimisation in adulthood. It makes a strong case for preventing crime by targeting those most at risk of experiencing adverse childhoods, and supporting people in the Justice System whose lives have been affected by adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) in order to reduce reoffending and prevent intergenerational crime.

The review draws on evidence from  a range of academic disciplines including criminology, health and psychology academic databases.

There is a strong association between Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and crime. People who experience multiple ACEs are more likely to engage in risk taking behaviours which are harmful to health and, significantly for Justice, sometimes associated with criminal behaviour.

Children and adults with experience of ACEs may come into contact with the criminal justice system - both as victims or witnesses and perpetrators of crime. They may also interact with the civil justice ‘family law’ system, therefore the justice system therefore has a key role in preventing and, in particular, mitigating the impact of ACEs.

In terms of resilience, cross-cutting policies are needed to identify and support children and their families at risk of early adversity at the earliest stage possible. The justice system is well placed to identify such families, and support victims and people who offend to promote their resilience and well-being, and reduce reoffending. There is an emerging body of evidence pointing to the value of trauma-informed approaches which advocate a more compassionate and strengths-based justice system.

Preventing ACEs could provide a significant opportunity to reduce crime in Scotland. Some studies have estimated that preventing ACEs could halve violence perpetration and incarceration.

If you are concerned about someone’s welfare, please tell someone who can help.

These are the phone numbers:

Duty Social Work (for Children)
Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm:
01595 744000

Duty Social Work (for Adults)
Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm:
01595 744400

Outside office hours:
01595 695611

Police: 101

Children’s Reporter:
0131 244 3780