A study in Brazil showed that a significant reduction in child poverty could reduce criminal convictions by nearly a quarter. An article about the study was published in Scientific Reports. The researchers used an innovative approach that included analysis of 22 risk factors affecting human development and interviews with 1,905 children at two points – a first baseline formation interview (median age 10.3) and a follow-up interview seven years later (median age 17.8).
The scholars concluded that poverty—largely measured as a combination of poor head of household education, low purchasing power and limited access to basic services—was the only preventable crime-related factor. They used estimates of the population attributable risk fraction (PARF) to predict the potential reduction in criminal convictions that assume successful early anti-poverty intervention in children’s lives.
In a poverty-free scenario, 22.5% of criminal convictions related to these youths could have been prevented. On the other hand, factors such as unplanned pregnancy, prematurity, breast-feeding, and maternal smoking or prenatal drinking did not show any relationship with future criminal convictions.
“A comprehensive look at young people who commit crimes is necessary to understand the circumstances that led to this situation and a range of preventable factors must be considered,” said Carolina Siebold, a researcher in the Department of Psychiatry at Federal University. from the Faculty of Medicine of São Paulo (EPM-UNIFESP) and first author of the article.
For Ari Gadelha, the article’s final author, using a complex measure of poverty that includes many more factors than household income is a leading aspect of the study. She was argued by a professor of psychiatry at EPM-UNIFESP and was Ziebold’s thesis advisor.
“The study took into account housing conditions and access to public services such as health care or sanitation, for example, in order to understand poverty more comprehensively. This has led us to advocate for solutions that are broader than simply improving incomes. The many adversities they face have become Children have difficulties in adulthood, such as low educational attainment and unemployment, among others,” she argued for Agência FAPESP.
The approach used in the study is based on an epidemiological method called exposure-wide association, which is similar to the method used in genome-wide association studies (GWAS). “Exposure-level correlation studies explore a wide range of potential exposures related to a single outcome (using a hypothesis-free approach),” the authors wrote.
In this case, they add, the analysis included “multiple modifiable perinatal, individual, family and school exposures associated with youth criminal convictions to identify new potential targets for prevention of this complex phenomenon.” Furthermore, they argue, “when a significant risk factor [such as poverty] The extent of its impact on a criminal conviction should be explained to inform and guide public measures to prevent crime.”
Another Ziebold-led study that includes the same group and published in December 2021 has already found associations between childhood poverty and an increased tendency to have extrinsic disorders during adolescence and early adulthood, especially among girls. The researchers concluded that multidimensional poverty and exposure to stressful life events, including frequent deaths and family conflicts, were avoidable risk factors that should be addressed in childhood in order to reduce the impact of mental health problems in adult life.
at recent days Scientific Reports Article, the researchers stress that although primary poverty was the only modifiable risk factor significantly associated with crime for children in the study sample, most (89%) did not have any criminal convictions.
“We wanted to avoid criminalizing poverty and show that it is a complex phenomenon. Exposure to this situation during life can lead to social tragedy. Crime is a social issue, and punishment alone may not be appropriate in the case of young people. Being more helpful to create real opportunities for rehabilitation – life chances.”
Only a small percentage (4.3%) of the 1,905 interviewed participants reported any history of criminal convictions, which mainly include theft, violent robbery, drug trafficking, and other violent crimes, including murder and attempted murder.
Participants were from the Brazilian High-Risk Cohort Study of Mental Disorders (BHRC), a major community-based survey of 2,511 families with children aged 6-10 when it began in 2010. They were all students in public schools in two large Brazilian cities. State capitals, São Paulo and Porto Alegre (Rio Grande do Sul). Three follow-up surveys have been completed so far, the most recent in 2018-2019. The fourth started this year and is due to be completed in 2024.
Regarded as one of the most ambitious child mental health surveys conducted in Brazil, the BHRC, also known as Project Connection – Minds of the Future, is conducted by the National Institute of Developmental Psychiatry (INPD). More than 20 universities in Brazil and elsewhere participate in the activities of the Institute. Its principal investigator is Euripides Constantino Miguel Filho, Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of São Paulo School of Medicine (FM-USP).
According to a report published by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in March 2022, “Children and adolescents have always been – and still are – the hardest hit by poverty. By the beginning of 2020, the percentage of children and adolescents living in monetary poverty and extreme monetary poverty in Brazil was, Relatively speaking, twice as much as in adults.”
Between 35% and 45%, depending on the age group, lived on less than $5.50 per day in 2020. The proportion of those living on less than $1.90 per day – the extreme monetary poverty line – was 12%.
Moreover, according to the Center for Social Policy Research of the Getúlio Vargas Foundation (FGV Social), food insecurity reached a record level in Brazil at the end of 2021, exceeding the global average and affecting mainly women, poor families and people aged 30 and 49 years old. The proportion of the total population suffering from food security was 36%, compared to 17% in 2014. The global average for 2021 was 35%.
“We know that people are not yet feeling the full economic impact of the pandemic, including food insecurity and lack of access to education. The consequences of children’s exposure will become clear in the future,” Siebold said, adding that more research is needed to understand how vulnerabilities might affect places Where children live on juvenile crime rates. “This type of factor has been observed in research in other countries, such as the United States, where young people are more likely to commit crimes if they live in areas without infrastructure or with gangs. This is a topic for further research.”
Some 46,000 young offenders were treated in 2019 by SINASE, Brazil’s juvenile offender justice system.
Carolina Ziebold et al, Individual and family modifiable risk factors in childhood for criminal conviction: a 7-year cohort study from Brazil, Scientific Reports (2022). DOI: 10.1038 / s41598-022-13975-8
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