AND OTHER BEHAVIOURS AMONGST
YOUNG PEOPLE IN NORTHERN IRELAND
* significant at p .01 or less
Overall therefore with regard to social control variables their association with the prevalence of last year offending was fairly high, as table 15.6 shows. Problem behaviour was associated with not liking school, having to repeat classes, not believing in a work ethic, relationships with the mother and parental supervision, of all the categories of offending, drugs and youth related offences were significantly related to the largest number of social control variables, while property offending was to a lesser degree. Political offending prevalence had only a tenuous relationship, mostly with school and employment factors, but overall social control theory provided a strong explanation for delinquency. Interestingly there were more significant differences in the prevalence of violence against the person with social control variables than for violence against objects. Alcohol prevalence was only related to whether a person liked school or his job, repeated classes or changed jobs, relationship with the mother, whom they went out with, frequency of contact with family and whether they had a boy/girlfriend. Social control theory however not surprisingly did not appear to be related to victimisation or fear of being a victim except for a few isolated variables.
* significant differences at p .05 or less
PB = category problem behaviour last year (truancy and running
While politically part of the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland is geographically separate, comprising six counties in the north eastern part of Ireland, which are part of the province of Ulster. It is a small country of 1,573,282 inhabitants, almost 18% of whom live in its capital city Belfast. The city itself consists of 5l wards but the suburbs (Belfast Urban Area) expand its population to 475,967 or almost a third of the total (1991 census). Situated at the mouth of Belfast Lough and surrounded by hills on three sides, it is a modern industrial city and port, probably best known for its shipbuilding, airplane manufacture and linen industry. One fifth of the province's workforce is employed in manufacturing, 10% in retailing, 10% in public administration, 10% in education, 9% in health, 7% in banking and business services, 5% in construction, 4% in transport and communications, 4% in agriculture and 3% in clothing and footwear.
In terms of economic wealth the province is deprived compared with the rest of the United Kingdom. According to the Family Expenditure survey 1989 the average family's weekly income is considerably lower at £220.46. It also has the highest regional unemployment rate at 14.7%, with 19% of economically active males and 11% of families unemployed. In Belfast itself one quarter of all economically active males were unemployed, and while 42% of all married women were working, almost one third of these were in part-time jobs (1991 census). Income support, a social services benefit for those with incomes below a minimum amount was claimed by 183,400 persons (DHSS 1989).
Slightly over half of the 107,394 private households in Belfast are owner occupied while only 32% are rented from public authorities and the remainder private rentals. The average number of residents is 2.6 per house and 29.7% are one person households. The quality of the housing is shown by the fact that at least 97% have baths and inside toilets, which are connected to public sewers and water supplies and 82% are centrally heated.
According to the Continuous Household Survey 1992, 19% of households consisted of one parent families, with just 1% headed by a lone father, and the proportion of lone mothers who are single or homeless has been increasing steadily over the last 20 years. The divorce rate has doubled over the last five years although it is not as high as elsewhere in the United Kingdom. There were 1818 decrees absolute in 1989, a divorce rate of 2.7 per 1000 of the married population (Relate 1992) and 18% of the population are divorced against 42% married (1991 census). Provisional figures for 1990 show that 18.8% of all births in the province were illegitimate and 5.3% were to teenagers - in fact 7% of all births were to teenage mothers, again the lowest rate in the UK. The province has the largest proportion of young people (32% in Belfast under 21 years) and the highest proportion of pensioners of any other region in the UK (12.6% in Belfast).
The educational system is two tier with secondary level education divided into grammar schools providing more academic subjects and secondary intermediate schools a mixture of academic and vocational subjects. The school leaving age is 16 years when public examinations (General Certificate of Secondary Education) can be taken. University entrance requires two years further study to "A" level.
Census figures showed that 6.5% of those over 16 years were educated to at least degree level, 5.6% to "A" level, 16.2% to GCSE, 7.7% held vocational qualifications but 65% had no formal qualifications at all. A greater proportion of school leavers are educated to "A" level standard than elsewhere in the UK but the ratio of those leaving without any formal qualifications is one of the highest.
The population of Belfast and indeed the province as a whole is relatively homogeneous with 93% of the residents of Belfast city born in Northern Ireland, a further 3% in Great Britain, 2% in the Republic of Ireland and only a tiny number from overseas. The population tends to divide not on racial grounds but on religious ones, with 39% of Belfast's citizens Roman Catholic and 40% Presbyterian, Methodist or Church of Ireland. The remainder belong to smaller Protestant sects, are Jewish, Hindu, Muslim or have no religious affiliation at all.
As mentioned earlier Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom, but since 1969 a terrorist campaign has been waged by those wishing the province to become part of an All Ireland state. Loyalist paramilitaries in their turn have returned the violence resulting overall in some 3000 deaths. In 1991 there were 94 deaths due to the security situation, 499 shootings, 367 explosions/defusings and 237 incendaries/defusings (Chief Constable's Report 1992). At the height of the "Troubles" in the 70's paramilitaries encouraged young people to steal cars to create barricades and 'no go' areas for the police. This resulted in car theft becoming part of a subculture in some areas of West Belfast, as evidenced by 9161 cars being taken away or hijacked in 1992 from the 464,812 cars on the province's roads (1991 census). The International Victimisation Survey 1990 reported Northern Ireland as having the highest car theft victimisation rates of 15 countries albeit the lowest overall rate of victimisation. Drug offending tends to be reasonably low, with 453 arrests and 376 charges/cautions in 1991.
Drugs seized included small quantities of cannabis, cocaine, heroin, LSD, magic mushrooms, Ecstasy and amphetamines (Chief Constable's Report 1992). Police policy would be to use cautions first for possession of small quantities for personal use and only bring the persistent offender and dealers to court.
Alcohol is a culturally more acceptable drug yet potentially a lethal one and the incidence of alcoholism is particularly high in Ireland as a whole. The law does not allow anyone under 18 years to be sold or consume alcohol on licenced premises and several district councils have byelaws forbidding the drinking of alcohol in the street or other public places. It is difficult to enforce these laws, however, due to the difficulty of knowing the actual age of the individual involved and the police would tend to control underage drinking through warnings and cautions, together with a policy of prevention through education. For the young people themselves apart from uniformed organisations, leisure centres and youth clubs, much of their entertainment centres around discos and music in licensed premises, so temptation is ever present. There are however 324 youth groups registered in Belfast catering for 23,800 young people under 25 years (1992 DENI). 40% of their membership caters for 5-10 years olds, 40% for 11-15's and 20% for over 16's.
It was against this backcloth of a relatively deprived and divided society with a large youth population, high unemployment, traditional values yet a low crime rate despite the security situation, that this study of self-reported delinquency took place.
The Northern Ireland part of the international study was carried out by the Centre for Independent Research and Analysis of Crime (CIRAC), which is the research arm of a crime prevention charity called Extern, and it was funded jointly by the Northern Ireland Office and the Central Community Relations Unit. The sample was city based, the survey conducted in Belfast over a three month period between November 1992 and February 1993 with 25 interviewers using a modified random walk method to generate the sample.
Due to there being no central register of juveniles in the province it was impossible to select the young people themselves as subjects, and the starting point had to be the random selection by computer of 1300 addresses from the housing rating valuations list. Each interviewer then approached the address identified, calling at least three times to ensure access, and enquired whether a young person aged between 14 and 21 years lived there. If there was an appropriately aged respondent they were asked to participate in the research, but if there was nobody of the correct age the householder was asked to identify other houses in the street in which young people lived. Interviewers then used a table of random numbers (Kish grid) to select which house to approach and also to select a particular subject if more than one potential respondent lived at the same address. An incentive payment of £5 was offered for a completed interview and verbal parental permission obtained if the young person was under 18 years.
No respondents in the appropriate age group were found in 340 (26.2%) streets, but of the remaining 960 addresses where there were potential respondents 883 (92.0%) young people did grant an interview. A further 77 young people (8.0%) who were potential respondents did not wish to participate in the research for a variety of reasons including lack of interest, parental permission refused, no time or too busy or the nature of the questionnaire. This was a very small refusal rate, coming from both sexes and all ages but mainly (64%) from those of low or lower middle socioeconomic status.
The questionnaire was administered entirely face-to-face, interviews lasting between 10 and 90 minutes depending on the extent of reported offending, with three quarters lasting no more than 35 minutes. In 16.3% of the interviews there were other people present but in less than half (48.6%) of these cases did the interviewers feel answers were influenced by this. The questionnaire had been validated during 1990 by several countries in Europe and America including Northern Ireland, where a random sample of 310 young people from Belfast as selected in a similar fashion to the present study. Amendments were made as a result of the pilot studies but the questionnaire still basically consisted of a socio-demographic section followed by filter 'Did you ever?' questions for a range of delinquent acts from status and youth related offences to property, violence and drug offences. There were also detailed questions about the nature of last year offending relating to each of the 33 offence types.
Because of the local security situation it was decided to include additional questions in the same format to do with bullying, glue sniffing, victimisation, intimidation and paramilitary involvement, but only the core questions common to all the countries are reported on in this section. While no reliability data is available, a check on the validity of the responses was made by interviewing a further sample of 57 convicted offenders from a Young Offenders Centre and three training schools for juveniles.
The main sample consisted of 456 (51.6%) males and 427(48.4%) females distributed fairly evenly across the age range although with slightly more 15-17 year olds compared to the older age groups particularly. Less than two-thirds were still in full-time education (including college and university) and 38% had left school altogether. The sample was skewed towards lower middle (48.2%) and lower socioeconomic status (10.8%) with only 20.1% middle, 16.9% higher middle and 3.9% upper status. The majority had fathers born in Northern Ireland (85.6%), Great Britain (6.5%) or the Republic of Ireland (5.4%), with only a very few of different ethnic origin, and the religious affiliation was fairly evenly balanced across the two main churches (43.1% Roman Catholic and 48.8% Protestant, 1.5% other, 3.3% none and 3.3% refusing to answer).
It was found that 75.5% of the sample reported having committed
at least one delinquent act at some time in their lives, and almost
half (47.3%) had done so during the last year (See Table 1.1).
These figures do not include status offences or alcohol consumption,
the latter of which was particularly prevalent (76.1% ever and
68.9% last year). Categories of offending were created and the
average prevalence refers to the number of individuals reporting
at least one of these offence types. Just over half had at some
stage been involved in problem behaviour and one fifth last year.
Violent offences were reported 'ever' by 63.4% and by almost one
quarter 'last year' but this prevalence is high due mainly to
the less serious offences of vandalism and spraying graffiti (See
Appendix 1). In fact when violence is separated into violence
against objects and other kinds of violence mainly against the
person, 60.9% admitted the former 'ever' but only 24.1% the latter.
Similarly only 17.1% had committed violence against objects last
year and 12.2% against persons. Nevertheless among the more serious
types of violent act it is worthwhile to note that 15.5% reported
rioting and 11.7% carrying weapons, mainly knives, at some time
in their lives, the prevalence dropping to 6% last year. Categories
of offending were created and the average prevalence refers to
the number of individuals reporting at least one of these offences.
* Each table refers to categories of offending which were created by summing the number of individuals reporting at least one of these offence types.
Property offences were next most prevalent (51.8% ever) with shoplifting and stealing from school reported by around one quarter, followed by buying stolen goods, stealing from home and burglary, which were reported by between one sixth and an eighth of the sample. Youth related offences were next most prevalent 'ever' (3 7.7%) and lastly drug offences (24.8% ever), however many of this group reported drug offending during the last year (19.9%). Drug use, particularly of soft drugs (23.5% ever) is much more prevalent than selling (3.1% ever) but a high proportion of the former had occurred in the last year (18.6% soft drugs and 8.6% hard drugsuse). On the whole there was not a great deal of difference between offence categories in terms of the prevalence of last year offending, ranging from 25.5% for property offences to 15.7% for youth related offences, but when comparing individual offending, what is particularly noticeable is the high level of self-reported soft drug use.
In terms of 'ever' offending however vandalism was reported by over half of the sample and bus fare evasion, spraying graffiti, shoplifting, soft drug use and stealing from school by around one quarter. Next most prevalent were buying stolen goods and driving without a licence, followed by rioting, stealing from home, burglary and hard drug use which were reported by between 16% and 10%. The remaining offences were reported by fewer than 1 in 10 and several such as pick pocketing, purse snatching and threatening someone to obtain money by less than 1 in 100.
As can be seen from Table 1 in the appendix, the prevalence of
individual delinquent acts 'last year' differed somewhat from
this picture. The use of soft drugs was most prevalent (18.6%)
followed by vandalism (12.5%) and buying stolen goods (10.2%).
The use of hard drugs followed closely on the heels of spraying
graffiti and driving without a licence, while bus fare evasion,
carrying a weapon and rioting were admitted by around 1 in 15
of the sample. The remaining acts were reported by 5% or fewer.
As can be seen in Tables 2a and 2b in the appendix, in fact using soft drugs was the most frequent offence followed by carrying a weapon, using hard drugs and spraying graffiti. Driving without a licence, vandalism, bus fare evasion, stealing from work, school and shoplifting were next most frequent, but there were some notable differences between the prevalence and incidence of last year offending. Soft drug use was both the most frequent and most prevalent offence, however, while buying stolen goods was ranked third most prevalent it was twelfth in incidence. Burglary, beating up a stranger and stealing from telephone kiosks also ranked considerably higher in prevalence than in incidence. Thus these offences were reported by more members of the sample but were relatively less frequent among them. Carrying a weapon on the other hand was second in incidence but eighth in prevalence, suggesting that it is an offence not spread as widely across the sample but highly frequent among the actual offenders.
When the actual frequency of offending is examined among only those who offended last year, carrying a weapon and using soft drugs are again highly frequent (means 44.7 and 21.3), but followed surprisingly by selling soft drugs which despite being reported by just 15 young people averaged 18.9 times, with selling hard drugs averaging 16.4 times. Other acts which are frequent among offenders even if the prevalence is not high include stealing from a car (9.9) and arson (9.0).
On the other hand rioting and buying stolen goods are ranked 21 and 22 in terms of frequency among the offending population but 11 and 12 when the incidence is considered as a proportion of the total sample, therefore they tend to be more frequent among offenders than they appear in terms of their general occurrence among all the young people.
Gender and Delinquency Last Year
The criminal justice system deals with a much higher proportion
of males then females and this difference was borne out by the
self report of last year offending, although not to anything like
the same extent. The overall prevalence among males was 56.4%
and 37.7% among females. The proportion of males to females brought
to Court which is more like 14:1. While the gender difference
was slight among the problem behaviours, all other categories
of delinquent acts showed a predominence of male involvement (See
Table 1.3) from just under a third in property and violent offences
to around a quarter in drug and youth related offences. Females
on the other hand ranged from almost one fifth for property offences
to just one tenth for youth related ones.
As Table 3 in the appendix shows, significant statistical gender differences were found such that more males than females reported truancy, all three youth related offences, stealing from work and from cars, stealing bikes and cars, buying and selling stolen goods, vandalism, carrying weapons, rioting, arson, beating up a family member and three of the four drug offences.
Males were also much more frequent offenders over most of the delinquent acts, although there was little difference between the sexes in the frequency of shoplifting, spraying graffiti, vandalism and bus fare evasion. Males admitted on average 42.2 acts as opposed to 26.8 for females, excluding alcohol use and problem behaviour. Interestingly too, although fewer females reported stealing from home, evading train fares and carrying weapons, those who had offended had done so twice as often during the previous year. In particular although only 8 females carried weapons they had done so on average 75 times (See Appendix), which they explained was for protection not as a sign of aggression - surely evidence of their vulnerability in an environment perceived as dangerous and threatening.
Patterns in last year offending however were not so clear when
age was taken into consideration. Table 1.4 illustrates overall
prevalence in the delinquent categories with age banded into four
groups (27.3% 14-15 years, 3 1.4% 16-17 years, 23.2% 18-19 years
and 18.1% 20-21 years).
Problem behaviour decreased with age and violent behaviour halved between the youngest and oldest age groups, due mainly to less vandalism and spraying graffiti. However, drug offences were 4-5 times as prevalent among the over 18's as with the 14-15 year olds, but there were no significant age differences in the prevalence of property or youth related offences. With the trends being in opposite directions for different types of delinquent act, the overall delinquency prevalence varied only slightly, with 14-15 year olds having the lowest rate and 18-19 year olds the highest.
Significant statistical age differences were also found with individual acts, eg truancy, running away, spraying graffiti, stealing from school and vandalism all decreased with age, while stealing from work, from a car, buying stolen goods, driving without a licence, train fare evasion and using alcohol, soft and hard drugs all increased in prevalence. However, none of the violent acts directed mainly against people appeared to be affected by age differences.
The actual frequency of offending last year also increased across the age groups with the 20-21 year olds (mean=47.3) who offended doing so almost three times as often as 14-15 years olds (mean=18.8). 16-17 year olds averaged 38.1 times last year and 18-19 year olds 44 times. Among the individual offences bus fare evasion, shoplifting, using soft drugs and alcohol were particularly frequent among the 20-21 year olds, whereas spraying graffiti, stealing bikes, cars and from cars, driving without a licence, using hard drugs and selling drugs peaked among the 16-17 year old offenders. Interestingly the frequency of carrying a weapon decreased with age.
Involvement in education is regarded as an important explanatory
variable in predicting offending, with those with few or no qualifications
more likely to drift into crime (Farrington, 1992). The sample
was therefore divided into high, medium and low education status
for those who had left education and those who were still in full-time
education/training. High status was defined as university education
or "A" level courses leading to university; medium as
General Certificate of Secondary Education and various national
diplomas; and low as no public examinations or low vocational
training courses. Simply grouping the young people into the type
of school attended would not differentiate them sufficiently as
it is possible to take academic courses in both grammar and secondary
intermediate schools in Northern Ireland.
As Table 1.5 shows, for those who were still involved in education/training the overall delinquency prevalence was lowest in the high status group, however there was little difference between the educational groups with the problem behaviour, youth related offences, or property offences. At the same time violent offending was 2-3 times more prevalent among those of medium and low status compared with the high educational status groups, and drugs were three times more prevalent among the high and medium groups compared to the low status one.
For those who had left school problem behaviour, property offences and violence were all more prevalent in the lower status groups with little difference between groups in the youth related offences. However once again drugs were more prevalent in those of higher educational status and in all status groups than those who were still at school. The different direction of these trends therefore meant there was no statistical differences between the groups in overall delinquency prevalence was greatest in the medium status groups.
It would appear therefore that in general whether still at school or not the more able young people were more likely to report drug offences and the less able violent ones.
Property, offences were however, equally prevalent among all levels of ability if still involved in education but much more prevalent among the less able if they had left school/training.
Statistically significant differences between educational groups for individual acts were however rare. The use of alcohol, drugs and stealing from work were more prevalent among high status groups while still in school/training, whereas buying stolen goods, graffiti and vandalism were more prevalent in the low status groups. If the young person had left school however, shoplifting, stealing cars, selling stolen goods, graffiti, carrying weapons and rioting were all more prevalent in the low status group whereas alcohol use was the only statistically significant more prevalent behaviour among those of high educational status.
The overall frequency of offending among those who had committed delinquent acts during last year showed a different pattern. If the young people were still in education the average number of offences varied hardly at all between groups (high 21.5, medium 19.4, low 20.1) but among those no longer in education the low status group (mean=82.7) offended three times more often than the high status (26.1) and nearly twice as often as the medium group (50), with in general the frequency of offending much greater among those who had left school. If still at school offences were most frequent among offenders of high educational status, such as shoplifting, stealing from work, carrying weapons, bus fare evasion, alcohol use and truancy and most frequent among those of lower status for stealing from home and school. If the offender was no longer in education the frequency was greater in those of low and medium educational status for shoplifting, stealing from school, cars, from cars, selling stolen goods, spraying graffiti, carrying weapons, rioting, three drug offences, bus fare evasion and driving without a licence. It would seem therefore that high frequency of offending confirms the high prevalence rates of delinquency among those of lower educational status who have finished with full-time education.
Socioeconomic status (SES) is also a well-known predictor of crime, therefore the relationships of last year offending and a basic SES variable was examined. This was constructed by combining the interviewers' estimation of the status of the house where the respondent lived with (father's job status), where lower class meant unskilled labour; lower middle class skilled jobs; middle class, employees, employers of medium industries; higher middle class, professions, jobs of higher education; and upper class employers of big industries or business. Occupations were classified using the Standard Occupational Classification Index.
Frequency of offending confirms the prevalence trends with frequency
decreasing the higher the socioeconomic status (see appendix).
Those of low socioeconomic status averaged 46.6 offences overall
last year, those of lower middle 40.1, those of middle 29.9, those
of higher middle 26.7 and those of upper socioeconomic status
12.5 offences. It would appear therefore that not only have more
young people from lower social strata offended but they did so
more often. This trend is particularly noticeable with several
individual offences such as shoplifting, stealing from school,
stealing cars, spraying graffiti, driving without a licence and
some drug offences. Interestingly however carrying a weapon was
more frequent in the three middle classes than the lowest one.
*** Insert Page 17***
Protestants). Those who belonged to no religious groupings were more frequent offenders (mean = 48.5) as were those of other faiths (mean = 106.2), but as the numbers involved were so small (20 and 4 respectively) no firm conclusions can be drawn from the figures. However when only the two main religious groups were considered certain individual offences were reported considerably more frequently by one group than another; eg shoplifting, selling stolen goods, bus and train fare evasion and driving without a licence were much more frequent among Roman Catholic offenders and stealing from school, work, stealing bikes, spraying graffiti, carrying weapons and arson were much more frequent among Protestant offenders.
It would appear therefore that while more Protestants than Catholics had committed at least one delinquent act last year, the frequency of the offending was similar overall. There were however differences between the groups in the frequency of some individual offences, but the individual prevalence rates tended to be the same.
As there is an acknowledged association between deprivation and
crime, the relationships between prevalence of delinquency and
the source of income was investigated. In this sample 44.7% of
the juveniles' income came from parents, 34.2% from work, 12.3%
from welfare, 6.6% from scholarships and 2.3% from other sources.
When individual delinquent acts are considered (see appendix) significant statistical differences were found between those with different sources of income. For those still dependent on parents the prevalence was highest for stealing from school, vandalism and truancy. For those at work they had the highest prevalence for stealing from work, presumably because of opportunity, whereas for those on welfare the prevalence was highest for stealing cars, stealing from cars, carrying weapons and using soft and hard drugs. With the scholarships group their prevalence rates were only highest in the use of alcohol and second highest in the use of soft and hard drugs. Those with other sources of income had the only highest prevalence rates for stealing from home and bus fare evasion.
With regards to frequency of offending those on welfare reported having committed delinquent acts 66.3 times last year compared with 47.7 times for those with other sources of income, 43.6 times for those at work, 27.8 times if on scholarships and 19.8 times for those with income from parents. Disregarding the "other" category where numbers were very small, certain offences were found to be particularly frequent among offenders, such as shoplifting, selling stolen goods, using soft drugs and train fare evasion for those on welfare, and stealing from school and bus fare evasion for those on scholarships. Stealing from work, from cars, spraying graffiti, carrying weapons and selling drugs were most frequent among those who had income from work.
It would appear then that overall both the prevalence and frequency of offending were least where income came from parents or a scholarship and highest when the young people were receiving welfare benefits.
Theories on social control (Hirschi 1969) have noted that variables to do with lack of commitment to an organised society, attachment to significant others, involvement in conventional activities and a belief in a common value system are liable to be correlated with juvenile delinquency. Questions on these issues were asked as part of the socio-demographic section of the interview schedule, and their relationships to last year offending prevalence explored. Among those who were still involved in education, liking school was found to be significantly related to self-reported delinquency levels across almost two-thirds of the individual acts, such that those who claimed never to have liked school had the highest prevalence rates and those who always liked it had the lowest. Similarly the importance of working hard to pass exams was significantly related to delinquency levels across 19 different offences, such that a much higher proportion of the 62 young people who did not think working hard for exams was important self-reported offending behaviour. Repeating classes in school was only related to the prevalence of a few offences, in particular status offences, drug use and beating up family members, while there were higher delinquency rates among those who had left school before the legal age requirements for three drug offences, stealing from work, stealing cars, from cars and selling stolen goods, vandalism, carrying weapons and rioting.
Among the working population however liking one's job was not really related to last year offending, except for vandalism, carrying weapons and buying stolen goods where the prevalence was proportionately greater if the young person claimed "never" to have liked their work. The importance of working hard was also found to be only weakly related to delinquency in about one-third of the offences spread over all the different categories, although in the expected direction. Whether or not an individual was employed or not made no difference at all to the prevalence rates, nor did the kind of job they were doing or whether they had ever changed jobs. It would seem therefore that commitment to the work ethic and enjoyment of one's labour is much more important at school level than in employment as regards its association with last year's offending prevalence.
In terms of attachment, relationships with both parents appear to be associated with the prevalence of drug offences, where the use of soft and hard drugs were more evident among those who only sometimes or never got on with their mothers and fathers. Poor relationships with fathers were also associated more with car theft, stealing from cars, spraying graffiti, vandalism, beating up family and selling soft drugs, whereas poor relationships with mothers were more associated with bus fare evasion, problem behaviour, alcohol use, spraying graffiti, vandalism, carrying weapons and rioting. Overall however attachment to parents was not a variable that was found to be associated with all kinds of delinquency.
Lack of parental knowledge of their children's whereabouts was again only related to some prevalence rates for youth-related offences, all four drug offences, four property offences, carrying a weapon and rioting. Lack of knowledge of companions, ie peer involvement, in their children's activities was also associated with higher prevalence of shoplifting, car theft, stealing from cars, selling stolen goods, using soft drugs selling hard drugs, other youth related offences and truancy. Thus it would seem that lack of supervision is associated with higher delinquency prevalence to a certain degree.
However, involvement in family activities bore only a slight relationship to offending where using soft drugs, alcohol and vandalism were higher among those who never went out with their families or did so less than once a month. Similarly only a tenuous relationship appeared to exist between delinquency and with whom young people spent their free time, significant statistical differences only occurring with spraying graffiti, vandalism, rioting, using soft drugs, alcohol, truancy and some youth related offences. In general the pattern was that those with the highest prevalence were ones who spent time in groups, although with drugs and alcohol use the prevalence was equally high among those spending time with boy or girlfriends, and with graffiti the highest prevalence was among the individuals who spent most time alone. Whether or not friends gave support when an individual was in trouble bore no relationships at all to prevalence levels, but a weak relationship was found over eight offences where having a boy or girlfriend was associated with a higher prevalence of delinquency. However wanting the relationship to last appeared to make a statistically significant difference to last year offending over five property, four violent, three drug and two youth related offences. Thus it would appear that there is only a slight tendency for delinquency in this sample to be associated with lack of involvement with family activities, with particular offences tending to occur in peer groups and sometimes within boy/girl relationships. In fact the presence of a steady relationship was associated to some degree with offending, but less often where there was a desire for it to last.
In terms of social control theory the strongest relationships existed between low prevalence rates and liking school. Working hard, but repeating classes and leaving school early were less strongly linked to delinquency, as was having a job and working hard at it. Attachment to parents and being supervised by them was also associated with lower rates of self-reported offending, but the links between family and peer involvement and delinquency were weaker. It could be said however that in general commitment, attachment, motivation and supervision are associated with self reported offending in this sample, some to a greater and others to a lesser degree, and that they provide at least part of an explanation for the prevalence of delinquency.
The fact that three quarters of the sample had reported committing a delinquent act at some time in their lives and nearly half had done so last year confirms how widespread rule breaking is during adolescence and young adulthood. Because of the security situation it might have been expected that a high level of violence would be found, but only one quarter had ever committed a violent offence against a person and one eighth had done so last year - rioting and carrying weapons being the most prevalent activities. Property offences were next most prevalent, in particular shoplifting, stealing from school and buying stolen goods, followed by drug and youth related offences. While the most prevalent offences tried at least once were vandalism, bus fare evasion and spraying graffiti; last year the more serious ones of using soft drugs (18.6%) vandalism (12.5%) and buying stolen goods (10.2%) were most prevalent. In fact the offences with the highest incidence were using soft drugs, carrying weapons, using hard drugs and spraying graffiti. Using soft drugs was the most prevalent and also the most frequent delinquent act, a picture which is not obvious from the official crime statistics. The incidence of most offences is such that most individuals report committing the acts only once or twice, but in the drug and violence categories there are more than a few who have offended 'continually', admitting drug use and carrying weapons 'all the time'. One in ten of the sample report committing at least one delinquent act more than 50 times last year. Most offences, if committed by a large number of people were also committed very frequently, but some offences such as buying stolen goods and burglary were less frequent compared to their prevalence, and other offences such as carrying a weapon were not committed by many people, but had the highest frequency among offenders.
There was a predominance of male involvement in last year offending, both in prevalence and frequency, but more females reported delinquent acts than would have been expected by the proportions appearing in the courts. The prevalence of problem behaviour and violent offences decreased with age, the latter due mainly to less spraying graffiti and vandalism. For drug offences and overall delinquency the prevalence peaked in the 18-19 years group and dropped again in the 20-21 year olds, suggesting that the prevalence of offending starts to decrease as adolescents move into adulthood which is borne out by the official crime statistics where 19 years is the peak age for offending. Despite this however the frequency of offending increased steadily across the age groups and 20-21 year old offenders committed 2-3 times as many offences as 14-15 year olds, so that even though fewer older adolescents offend, they do so more frequently.
The effect of educational status appeared to depend on the type of offence and whether or not the individual had left full-time education. For the whole sample drug offending was highest in the high status group and lowest in the low status one, but far more prevalent in general among those who had left school/training. On the other hand property and violent offences followed the opposite directions and these were more prevalent among low status groups, the extent of violent offending in particular being negligible among both high educational status groups.
If offenders were still at school there were no differences between those of different educational status in frequency of offending, but among those no longer in education the low status groups offended 2-3 times as often as those of high status. It would appear therefore in general that low educational status is largely associated with high frequency violent and property offending, especially if no longer in education, whereas higher educational status is associated with less offending, apart from drugs, especially when still in full-time education.
The pattern which was found with socioeconomic status was somewhat clearer, as there was both a greater prevalence and frequency of last year offending in general among those of lower SES, although youth related and drug offences were fairly widespread across all classes. Few individual offence prevalences were statistically significant, however stealing cars, buying and selling stolen goods, arson and graffiti were found more often among the lower or lower middle status groups, which would confirm the picture presented by official statistics and previous research.
Those with no religious affiliation were found to be the most frequent offenders, with the prevalence of self reported offending greater overall among Protestants than Roman Catholics. However, there were no significant differences between groups when the individual acts were examined, except for drug and alcohol use. There was a similar overall frequency of offending for the two main religious groups, but several individual acts were committed more frequently by one group or the other. There is no official analysis of statistics by religious affiliation, therefore it is not possible to compare these self report figures with police records.
Both the prevalence and frequency of offending were highest with those receiving welfare payments or income from other sources and lowest when income was from parents or scholarships. In particular higher prevalence in violence and drug offence categories was associated with welfare incomes, although those on scholarships had the second highest prevalence of drugs. Those on welfare were significantly associated with stealing cars, from cars, drug use and carrying weapons, which confirms the picture painted by official statistics.
On a more personal level being highly motivated and committed to schoolwork, having good relationships with parents or steady boy/girlfriends, not being too involved with the peer group and being supervised by parents all appeared to contribute to lower prevalence rates for offending. Thus social control theory offers a fair explanation for the results of this study of self-reported delinquency.
In conclusion it can be said that, while the majority of young people had engaged in delinquent acts at some stage in their lives, the prevalence of last year offending was really very low, with only soft drug use, vandalism and buying stolen goods reported by more than 1 in 10 of the sample. The traditional values in Northern Ireland, despite the relative economic deprivation and sectarian violence, appear to have protected most of the young people against involvement in most property and violent offences. Where the experimentation of youth shows itself is in the recent much higher prevalence and frequency of soft drug use. This is a tendency which has been slower to happen in Northern Ireland than in other parts of the United Kingdom, but needs to be taken note of by parents, educators and the forces of law and order so that the situation does not escalate out of control. In Northern Ireland higher prevalence of offending tends to be associated more with males in their late teens from lower educational and socioeconomic groups who receive welfare benefits. Thus economic conditions, high unemployment and the large number of school leavers with no qualifications all appear to contribute to the extent of self-reported delinquency.