The most common childhood mental health difficulties are conduct problems. A very high proportion of those who have the most serious conduct problems during childhood will go on to become involved in criminal activity. Overall, we estimate that around 80% of all criminal activity is attributable to people who had conduct problems in childhood and adolescence.
This paper examines the links between early conduct problems and subsequent offending. It makes the case for greatly increased investment in evidence-based programmes to reduce the prevalence and severity of conduct problems in childhood. It shows that, in addition to improvements in the quality of life for many individuals and their families, the potential long-term benefits to society as a whole are enormous, particularly in terms of crime prevention.