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Individual, family and offence characteristics of high risk childhood offenders: comparing non-offending, one-time offending and re-offending Dutch-Moroccan migrant children in the Netherlands

Carmen H Paalman1*, Lieke van Domburgh12, Gonneke WJM Stevens3 and Theo AH Doreleijers14

Author Affiliations

1 VU University Medical Centre, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

2 LSG-Rentray, Zutphen, the Netherlands

3 Utrecht University, Interdisciplinary Social Science, Faculty of Social Sciences, Utrecht, the Netherlands

4 Leiden University, Faculty of Law, Leiden, the Netherlands

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Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health 2011, 5:33  doi:10.1186/1753-2000-5-33

Published: 20 October 2011



Childhood offenders are at an increased risk for developing mental health, social and educational problems later in life. An early onset of offending is a strong predictor for future persistent offending. Childhood offenders from ethnic minority groups are a vulnerable at-risk group. However, up until now, no studies have focused on them.


To investigate which risk factors are associated with (re-)offending of childhood offenders from an ethnic minority.


Dutch-Moroccan boys, who were registered by the police in the year 2006-2007, and their parents as well as a control group (n = 40) were interviewed regarding their individual and family characteristics. Two years later a follow-up analysis of police data was conducted to identify one-time offenders (n = 65) and re-offenders (n = 35).


All groups, including the controls, showed substantial problems. Single parenthood (OR 6.0) and financial problems (OR 3.9) distinguished one-time offenders from controls. Reading problems (OR 3.8), having an older brother (OR 5.5) and a parent having Dutch friends (OR 4.3) distinguished re-offenders from one-time offenders. First offence characteristics were not predictive for re-offending. The control group reported high levels of emotional problems (33.3%). Parents reported not needing help for their children but half of the re-offender's families were known to the Child Welfare Agency, mostly in a juridical framework.


The Moroccan subgroup of childhood offenders has substantial problems that might hamper healthy development. Interventions should focus on reaching these families tailored to their needs and expectations using a multi-system approach.

childhood onset delinquency; childhood onset offending; migrant; ethnicity; risk factors