Individuals – Bennett et al. (2018)

Study Reference:

Bennett, S., Mazerolle, L., Antrobus, E., Eggins, E., & Piquero, A. R. (2018). Truancy intervention reduces crime: Results from a randomized field trial. Justice Quarterly35(2), 309-329.

See also:

Cardwell, S. M., Mazerolle, L., Bennett, S., & Piquero, A. R. (2019). Changing the relationship between impulsivity and antisocial behavior: The impact of a school engagement program. Crime & Delinquency, 65(8), 1076-1101.

Mazerolle, L., Bennett, S., Antrobus, E., Cardwell, S. M., Eggins, E., & Piquero, A. R. (2019). Disrupting the pathway from truancy to delinquency: A randomized field trial test of the longitudinal impact of a school engagement program. Journal of Quantitative Criminology, 35(4), 663-689.

Location in the Matrix; Methodological Rigor; Outcome:

Individuals; Focused; Highly proactive; Very rigorous; Effective

What police practice or strategy was examined?

The study tests a partnership between police and schools targeting truancy and its impact on offending in a sample of high-risk truanting young people in Queensland, Australia. The intervention involved a conference in which school and police representatives sought to understand the reasons behind poor school attendance from the students and their parents’ view, as well as to stress to the students and their parents the negative impact of truancy on life development and future offending and victimization. School staff then articulated, in a procedurally just way, the legal requirements of parents to have their child attend school, specifying the legal processes that school staff needed to follow, which could ultimately result in parents being fined or prosecuted should their child’s nonattendance persist. Finally, the police, school officials, students, and parents, collaboratively developed a child-focused “action plan” to target factors contributing to the truancy problem. The police monitored the action plan for 6 to 8 months, with an average of nine follow-up contacts/conversations with families, and then facilitated a second group conference—the “exit meeting”—to assess compliance with the action plan and changes in school attendance.

How was the intervention evaluated?

102 students aged 10 to 16 years with 85% or less attendance in the three previous school terms and who had no legitimate explanation for their absences were recruited along with their parents and randomly assigned to receive the treatment (n=51) or to the control group (n=51).  Participants came from 11 participating schools in a district particularly challenged by a lower socioeconomic environment and significantly higher offending rates. The business-as-usual control group left schools to implement truancy laws in their usual ways (i.e., school principals making ad hoc decisions to speak to truants’ parents or issue warning letters). Official police data, including arrests, cautions, and warrant records, were collected for the pre- and postintervention periods, with differences in offending compared between the treatment and control groups to assess program impact.

What were the key findings?

Control participants experienced a significant increase in the rate of offending from pre- to postintervention, while experimental participants over the same period did not significantly differ in their rate of offending. Subsequent analyses using self-report survey data of the youth participants before and after the intervention found that the program reduced self-reported antisocial behavior and that participation in the truancy program diminished the impact of impulsivity on antisocial behavior (Cardwell et al., 2019; Mazerolle et al., 2018).

What were the implications for law enforcement?

The authors suggest that truancy intervention efforts administered by schools in partnership with police, with support from families of the children, can curb truancy and protect youth against delinquent and/or criminogenic trajectories.

Where can I find more information about this intervention, similar types of intervention, or related studies?