Antisocial children are a financial drain on society, but parental training can help

July 26, 2001

Financial cost of social exclusion: follow up study of antisocial children into adulthood BMJ Volume 323, pp 191-194

Multicentre controlled trial of parenting groups for childhood antisocial behaviour in clinical practice BMJ Volume 323, pp 194-197

Commentary: nipping conduct problems in the bud BMJ Volume 323, pp 197-198

Children who display antisocial behaviour cost society 10 times more than those with no problems and are at high risk of lifelong social exclusion, concludes a study in this week's BMJ. However, a second study reports that parental training programmes can be a cost effective way to nip serious antisocial behaviour in children in the bud.

In the first study, Scott and colleagues tracked the costs to the public sector of 142 children with different levels of antisocial behaviour, from age 10 to their late 20s. By age 28, costs for individuals with serious antisocial behaviour were 10 times higher than for those with no problems. Crime incurred the greatest cost, followed by special educational provision, foster and residential care, and state benefits. Early interventions to reduce antisocial behaviour in childhood could result in large cost savings, they conclude.

In the second study, the team identified 141 highly antisocial children aged 3-8 years. The parents of 90 children completed a training programme; the remaining 51 parents received no such training. Children in the training group showed a large reduction in antisocial behaviour, while those in the control group did not change.

Although such parenting programmes are only just beginning to become available in the United Kingdom, they show promise as a cost effective way to reduce the personal and economic burden of antisocial behaviour in children and to prevent criminality and social exclusion, conclude the authors.
Stephen Scott, Senior Lecturer in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, King's College London, London, UK


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