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All societies are governed by a common understanding of how people should act in given situations. These guidelines are referred to as "norms" find generally reflect the values of a particular society (Harper 1997). Acts or behaviours that run counter to these socially accepted standards of behaviour are often labelled "antisocial" (Rutter 1997). As norms are socially determined, definitions of "antisocial behaviour" are to a certain extent value-laden, and may differ between cultures and eras (Rutter 1997).
Recognising, these limitations, a broad definition of antisocial behaviour, as "behaviour that contravenes the norms of society" (Rutter, 1997:115) is used in this article. Thus, antisocial behaviour as it is defined here includes a broad array of behaviours ranging from minor to serious criminal acts (such as vandalism assault or drug trafficking) as well as socially unacceptable behaviours which are not illegal (for example, bullying and fighting).
While research suggests that occasional involvement in antisocial behaviour is common among adolescents (Baker 1998; Bond et al. 2000; Vassallo et al. 2002), for a small number, this behaviour tends to be more frequent and enduring. For this small group of adolescents, such behaviour often persists into adulthood, fit considerable cost to the individuals themselves, their families and the wider community (Homel et al. 1999). Thus, adolescent antisocial behaviour may be predictive of adult antisocial and criminal behaviour, as well as a range of other problems such as substance dependence, mental health problems, and relationship and financial difficulties (Farrington 2002: Moffitt 2002).
There is growing recognition that early intervention can prevent or diminish the development of problem behaviours, including antisocial behaviour (Homel et al. 1999). Early intervention and prevention is clearly preferable to reacting after problems have become entrenched, and is often more efficient and cost-effective. For example, Greenwood and colleagues (1998) examined the cost effectiveness of early intervention approaches in diverting, young, people from crime, and concluded that early intervention could deliver similar reductions in crime to that achieved by imprisoning offenders, at a fraction of the cost.
However, effective early intervention and prevention strategies need to be grounded on a sound understanding of the factors and processes that promote or hinder the development of antisocial behaviour. In recent years, substantial research has been devoted to identifying factors that increase the likelihood of involvement in such behaviour. A recent authoritative review identified a wide range of risk factors for adolescent antisocial behaviour, including personal attributes such as aggression, a "difficult" temperament style or poor social skills, as well as characteristics of an individual's family (family violence and disharmony, lenient parental supervision), school factors (low attachment and achievement), peer relationship factors (association with antisocial peers), and community characteristics (socio-economic disadvantage, crime-prone neighbourhood) (Homel et al. 1999).
Risk factors are defined as factors that increase the statistical probability of a negative outcome occurring. Hence, not all individuals with a large number of risk factors will develop that negative outcome. Much can be learned from the individuals who are at risk of developing antisocial behaviour but remain resilient to this outcome.
As noted above, risks can arise from multiple contexts. While a child's life circumstances can create risks (for example, poverty or family breakdown), so too can their individual characteristics (for example, a child's temperament style or behaviour problems). Similarly, it is clear that resiliency does not only reside in the child, but can arise from the circumstances that a child finds himself in. For example, the famous Kauai study (Werner and Smith 1992) showed that a child's temperamental characteristics and social skills, strong relationships with parents or other adult figures, and a community support network all were sources of resiliency.
This article focuses particularly on the risk factors for antisocial behaviour that reside in the child, including difficult temperament characteristics, problem behaviours and diminished social skills, as evident at the age of 11-12 years. In fact, these factors are some of the strongest risks identified for adolescent antisocial behaviour (Homel et al. 1999). The article then looks at the role of environmental factors in assisting at risk children to remain resilient to the development of antisocial behaviour in adolescence.
Thus, this article explores two main questions concerning resilience against the development of antisocial behaviour: Why do at-risk individuals differ in their susceptibility to antisocial behaviour? What individual, familial or environmental strengths help some vulnerable individuals to withstand risk and avoid progressing to antisocial behaviour?
Australian Temperament Project
The findings presented here come from a collaborative project between the Australian Institute of Family Studies and Crime Prevention Victoria. This partnership began in 2001 when Crime Prevention Victoria commissioned the Institute to analyse data from the Australian Temperament Project (ATP) concerning the development of antisocial behaviour in adolescence and early adulthood. A brief description of the Project, and information about accessing the publications from the collaboration are provided in the accompanying box.
Identification of antisocial groups
Adolescent self-reports of antisocial behaviour were obtained during three survey waves collected when ATP participants were aged between 13 and 18 years. Groups with differing across-time patterns of antisocial behaviour were identified via the process outlined below (see Vassallo et al. 2002 for further details).
First, adolescents were classified as displaying high or low levels of antisocial behaviour at each time point. Adolescents who …