This study examined the school experiences of 16 adolescent male offenders serving control orders in a maximum-security detention facility administered by the New South Wales Department of Juvenile Justice, Australia. The primary aim was to identify factors in the school setting and family–school mesosystem that promoted the development of their offending behaviours. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with each young offender and recorded on audiocassette. Data were analysed using phenomenological descriptive methodology. Most of the young offenders were predisposed to school failure before they entered the school system. Their family backgrounds placed them at high risk for academic and social difficulties. In most cases these difficulties were evident from early ages. Poor relationships with teachers combined with learning and social difficulties resulted in low motivation to learn. Antisocial school settings promoted aggression and violence. Poor relationships with teachers, antisocial school cultures and ineffective school practices, combined with family conflict and instability and in some cases domestic violence, physical abuse and family criminality, exacerbated academic and social difficulties. Findings suggest the need to deliver interventions to at-risk children (and their families) during their school years in order to enable their development along prosocial trajectories and divert them from offending.
- Young offender