Knowledge and evidence review of the evidence relating to the prevalence and incidence of neuro-developmental disorders in children and young people (2012)

This project will review the knowledge and evidence relating to the incidence and prevalence of neurodevelopmental disorders in young people in the secure estate.

Recent research undertaken by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner highlights the 'limited understanding of child and adolescent development and limited recognition, understanding and management of developmental and neurodevelopmental problems' within the secure estate. This is despite research consistently demonstrating 'high levels of complex developmental issues and unmet emotional and other mental health needs among children and young people in the youth justice system'. The last twenty years have seen remarkable advances in the range of neurosciences, bringing new insights and understandings into the process of brain development amongst young people. As our knowledge advances it is necessary to consider how such knowledge might challenge pre-existing evidence and established wisdoms, and therefore the frameworks upon which law and social policy is developed, and to re-appraise current practice and policy with regard the management of criminal and anti-social behaviour that can be linked to neurological disorder early in life.

We would therefore seek to identify and review evidence in relation the following research questions: 

  • What is the prevalence of various neurodevelopmental disorders amongst young people within the criminal justice system, and specifically within the secure estate?
  • In what ways are such disorders being identified, and are there any apparent examples of good practice? 
  • What are the risks associated with neurodevelopmental disorders on future offending?
  • What background factors in the lives of young offenders with neurodevelopmental disorders might increase the risks of offending patterns of behaviour?
  • What forms of intervention, and at what level (individual, family and social), have been shown to be effective in changing behaviour of those with neurodevelopmental disorders who are at risk of offending?

This project brings together the varied expertise and relevant experience of different disciplines, organisations, and research groups to provide a project team that is uniquely able to respond to the aims of this research review in a timely and efficient manner, and to assist the Office for the Children's Commissioner in shaping a research and policy agenda.

The team consists of researchers from the School of Social Policy at the University of Birmingham and the Centre for Clinical Neuropsychology Research at the University of Exeter, and its associate members in the School of Law at the University of Exeter and the University of Cardiff. In doing so, a core team of experts with specific research interests in relation to neurodevelopmental disorders, crime and the law in relation to young people is supplemented by access to a wide range of academic experts in the broader fields of neuroscience, psychology, law, social policy, youth justice, social care, and beyond.

The project will be co-led by: Prof. Huw Williams, Associate Professor of Clinical Neuropsychology and Co-Director of the Centre for Clinical Neuropsychology Research (CCNR), University of Exeter; and Dr Nathan Hughes , Lecturer at the School of Social Policy, University of Birmingham.

Further information

Dr Nathan Hughes
School of Social Policy
Institute of Applied Social Studies
University of Birmingham