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Patterns of offending behaviour over time for different groups of children in relation to time spent in and out of care


Child & Family Social Work

Published online on


Children who spend time in care are more likely to have an official record of offending behaviour than the general population. However, there is a lack of longitudinal research on the timing, severity, and volume of offending in relation to time spent in and out of care. Furthermore, differences in patterns of offending by identifiable groups in care are rarely a focus of research. This study is both longitudinal and identifies 8 groups within the care population with different volumes of recorded offending: ranging from a mean of 41.75 (prolific) to 1.60 (low). Substance misuse, gender, and reasons for referral to care were associated with different patterns of offending in and out of care. The study is primarily based on a subsample of 64 children who had offended whilst in care. The subsample represents 38.5% of a cohort of children who had been in care or were taken into care over a particular period (2008–2011) in one local authority. The placements and recorded offences of the 64 children were tracked for a further 2 years (2011–2013). The study highlights future areas of research and the need for more tailored responses to different groups within the care system.