Research About Tackling Youth Offending & Anti-Social Behaviour Through Parenting Support – Measuring outcomes and gathering an evidence-base for a particular approach or way of working is an important part of any intervention. By measuring success you can also notice where improvements are required. For example from the outcomes gathered based on this work one observation was that when looking at the longitudinal findings there is a gradual rise in youth offending rates. To address this, parenting support groups have been set up which run monthly all year round so that if any parents feel that things are slipping back to how they were, or if they feel that they are beginning to struggle again there is somewhere for them to go to get support before things get too bad again.
The data presented here is based on me using a human givens approach to parenting support being offered to 321 families over a four year period. The human givens approach uses elements of solution focused working, motivational interviewing, cognitive behavioural therapy, interpersonal therapy, and hypnosis, and places this within a context of looking at the innate human needs of family members, how they use their natural inbuilt skills – like their ability to view problems objectively, and their ability to relax, and systemically looking at what areas the smallest change can be made which will help make the biggest shift in the situation.
Data was gathered at the time of each referral about whether the young person the referral was relating to had entered the youth justice system or not. This was compared with data a year after the parent(s) were either offered support but declined it, or a year from the date support ended if they accepted support. To get an idea of outcomes over a longer time period 91 families that were offered support had data gathered at the time of receiving referrals as to whether the young person had entered the youth justice system or not, and this was compared with data gathered over three years later. This was the basis of the hard data. All families offered support were included in the data.
The soft data that was gathered consisted of feedback from parents about what changes they had noticed at the end of working together, feedback from the young people about what changes they had noticed, scaling questions at the start of the intervention and the end of the intervention, for the parents, scaling areas like; best hopes, confidence and relationship with the young person, and scaling questions with the young people on areas like doing as their parent tells them to do, listening, being listened to, and quality of the relationship. All the scaling was 0-10, with 0 being worst and 10 being best. The average number of sessions parents received was 6. The range was from parents receiving a single session, to parents receiving twelve sessions. It was rare for parents to receive twelve sessions and in many cases parents received less than six.
At the first session parents were asked how confident they were at managing their teenager. The average response was 5. The same question was asked at each session; the average response from parents in the final session was that things had improved to 8. Parents were asked where their relationship with their teen was at the start. The average response was 6 at the start which by the end of the support had risen to an 8. Best hopes were the most important subjective piece of data because the best hopes are identifying how much improvement has been made relating directly to the problem situation that was present at the beginning, and comparing how things were at the end. The average response to asking parents to scale best hopes in the first session was that things were at about 4. At the final session the average scaling of best hopes had increased to an 8. The average number parents said they would be happy with achieving was 7 so most parents achieved what they wanted to achieve from receiving support by the final session. With best hopes parents were contacted six months later to see where they were at that point. The average number parents reported at the six month follow up was that things were still at a 7.
Parents also had the opportunity to feedback what improvements they had noticed compared to before receiving support, here is a selection of comments from parents:
• It gave me a helpful insight into changing things in different ways
• I feel confident to follow through with discipline
• We are getting on better than before and can handle things a lot better
• Spending more time together
• Talking more often
• Better communication
• More positive
• More confidence
The young people also had the opportunity to feedback what changes they had noticed following their parent(s) receiving support, and here is a selection of comments from the young people:
• My parents listen to me more than they did and help me sort out my problems better
• My Mum is more calmer than last year, but it might be because we agreed on that
• No shouting and rows like before. Mum seems happier and I am staying at school
• We are together more and we go out more often
• My sister does not threaten me with her fists
• We’ve changed bedrooms. I think it’s because me and John argue when we share a bedroom so I think it’s a change and we hardly argue anymore
• When I get angry they tell me to go upstairs to calm down now
• A lot has changed. The house is more peaceful and everyone is relaxed. We have a laugh
• They are a lot calmer than they used to be when they tell me off
• Mum listens to me…My mum knows more about me
The difficulty with soft data, apart from it being subjective is that it doesn’t capture information about the families where parents chose not to engage, it only gathers information relating to parents that engaged with the support. This means that there is no way of knowing whether the support made any difference to the families other than what they have reported. The parents that chose not to engage may also have moved on just as much, or outcomes may be worse but there is no way of knowing.
This is where hard data is useful because it allows for the capture of information relating to the outcomes of those that engaged with support as well as those that chose not to engage with support.
321 families were offered the opportunity to receive parenting support. Out of those 321 families 57% chose to accept the support and 43% decided they didn’t want the support. When looking at the levels of young people that were in the criminal justice system before being offered support and a year after being offered support and declining it, or the completion of receiving support, when parents engaged 20% of the young people had previously offended and a year after the parents engaged in support this reduced to 10%. When parent chose not to engage 42% of the young people had previously offended and a year after the support was offered this had reduced to 31%. The interesting finding was when this was compared with the 91 families that were monitored over a 3 year period. Over this longer time period offending rates began to creep up as would be expected but there was a huge difference in the rate this occurred between those that had parents’ that engaged and those where parents’ didn’t engage. With parental engagement the offending rate rose from 10% to 17%, still below the 20% starting rate. With the parents that chose not to engage the offending rate rose from 31% to 52%, well above the 42% starting rate.
The parenting referrals fell into two categories, prevention referrals, these are referrals of young people that have perhaps been involved with the anti-social behaviour team, they will be parents of young people that are at risk of entering the criminal justice system but haven’t yet, and referrals of parents of young offenders, these are referrals of parents of young people that are in the criminal justice system. The young people that are in the criminal justice system are all working with a youth justice worker at the time of the parenting support referral being received. They are frequently on orders lasting three to twelve months.
With many services being cut and focusing on targeted work with high end cases and reducing the focus on prevention and early intervention these findings can show the importance of prevention to reduce youth criminal offending and the impact this has over a three year period. 225 referrals were preventative. Of these 64% engaged in the support offered and data was gathered a year after the support ended 96% of the young people hadn’t offended at this point, 64 of the referrals were monitored over a three year period and 89% of the young people still hadn’t offended three years later. 36% of the parents chose not to take up the offer of support, a year following the offer of support 87% of the young people hadn’t offended and three years later this number had reduced to 67%. This is encouraging because it shows that many young people at risk of becoming young offenders are unlikely to do so. It also shows that when parents receive this support they increase the chances of their teen keeping out of trouble. Whereas if they don’t have any support there is more chance of their teen entering the criminal justice system within a year and significantly more chance of their young person doing so within the next three years.
The hardest to engage parents are parents of young offenders. Many of the referral for parenting of young offenders is for parents of older teens. Many of these teens are 15-17, whereas the preventative work is often parents of 10-14 year olds. Many of these parents choose not to engage, a frequent comment from parents is that their child is nearly 16 and so they only have to last a few more months, after that if they don’t sort themselves out they can move out of home. Some parents comment that their teen is already 16 or older and so if they do one more thing they will be out. The engagement rate of these parents is significantly lower than for preventative support. Out of 96 parents that were offered support, only 39% engaged. Data gathered a year after support ended showed that 68% of the young people hadn’t offended over that year. 27 parents of young offenders were monitored over a three year period and this rate had only dropped slightly to 60% that hadn’t offended three years later. These were all young people that before parenting support was offered had committed criminal offences and were all being seen by a Youth Justice Worker. 61% of the parents offered support chose not to engage. A year following the parents choosing not to take up the offer of support 44% of the young people hadn’t offended, which dropped sharply to only 18% of the young people not committing offenses over a three year period. The interesting finding here is that all the young people had a Youth Justice Worker during the first year, so for those parents that engaged there was support for the parent and support for the young person. The big difference appears when the Youth Justice Worker involvement ends. For the young people whose parents were supported, long term outcomes were more optimistic, there was a more stable result. Whereas when parents didn’t engage with support, once the Youth Justice Worker wasn’t involved, so the young person wasn’t being supported, the likelihood of reoffending dramatically increased so that three years later 82% of the young people had reoffended, compared to just 40% of the young people reoffending when parents had been supported and had developed ways of thinking and managing situations that allowed them to support their teen with keeping out of trouble.
So, by offering support to parents early on there is a higher level of engagement in that support. The outcomes are greater and there is significantly less likelihood of the young person entering the criminal justice system. When parents engage in support even when their teen is in the criminal justice system, they can develop skills and ways of thinking that can help them to support their teen to reduce the chances of them reoffending. In these cases the parenting support compliments the work being done by the Youth Justice Workers and when the parents have been supported they are more able to keep progress going after the Youth Justice Workers involvement ends. This way of working helps to empower parents and give them hope because they aren’t being told techniques to learn that may or may not work, and may not be appropriate as their teen grows up, they are being encouraged to think about things in a slightly different way, they are being encouraged to view situations differently, be mindful of their own emotional needs and the emotional needs of their teens, and to focus more on solutions and how situations become resolved, rather than on searching for ‘why’ and blaming or feeling that they must be bad parents. This allows the parents to develop skills for life rather than just techniques for situations.