Youth (in)justice: Oral language competence in early life and risk for engagement in antisocial behaviour in adolescence

Pamela Snow, Martine Powell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)


Youth offenders are complex and challenging for policymakers and practitioners alike and face high risks for long-term disadvantage and social marginalisation. In many cases, this marginalisation from the mainstream begins in early life, particularly in the classroom, where they have difficulty both with language/literacy tasks and with the interpersonal demands of the classroom. Underlying both sets of skills is oral language competence-the ability to use and understand spoken language in a range of situations and social exchanges, in order to successfully negotiate the business of everyday life. This paper highlights an emerging field of research that focuses specifically on the oral language skills of high-risk young people. It presents evidence from Australia and overseas that demonstrates that high proportions (some 50 in Australian studies) of young offenders have a clinically significant, but previously undetected, oral language disorder. The evidence presented in this paper raises important questions about how young offenders engage in forensic interviews, whether as suspects, victims or witnesses. The delivery of highly verbally mediated interventions such as counselling and restorative justice conferencing is also considered in the light of emerging international evidence on this topic.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1 - 6
Number of pages6
JournalTrends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice
Issue number435
Publication statusPublished - 2012

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