Bereavement and offending behaviours : a role for Early and Effective Intervention (EEI)?

Vaswani, Nina and Gillon, Fern Rebecca Louise (2019) Bereavement and offending behaviours : a role for Early and Effective Intervention (EEI)? Children and Young People's Centre for Justice, Glasgow. (

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Research has identified a higher prevalence of loss and bereavement among people who are in contact with the justice system, including: children involved in a pattern of offending (Vaswani, 2008); young people in custody (Finlay & Jones, 2000; Vaswani, 2014), and adults in prison (Vaswani, 2019). Bereavements experienced by people in custody have also been found to involve more unambiguously traumatic circumstances, such as murder or suicide (Leach, Burgess, & Holmwood, 2008; Vaswani, 2014). Furthermore, grieving within the constraints of the justice system, in particular while in custody, poses additional challenges (Hendry, 2009; Schetky, 1998; Vaswani, 2014). However, the vast majority of people who get involved in offending do not persist with this behaviour, nor do they find themselves in custody. Little is known about the bereavement experiences and support needs of the broader population of people involved with the justice system, and if they differ from population-level samples (where bereavement is a normative and common experience). Furthermore, while the research is clear about the existence of an association between loss, childhood bereavement and offending, there is less understanding about the nature, direction or mechanisms of this association. For example, the association may be one of correlation rather than causation as many childhood experiences that are related in some way to vulnerability and offending (poverty, inequality, familial substance misuse or mental health issues, community violence etc.) also increase the risk of premature death and bereavement. Or there may be something about the bereavement experience, or the response to that experience, that leaves some children vulnerable to poor outcomes.