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Socio-economic status and child antisocial behaviour

Researchers: Dr Richard Rowe | Professor Barbara Maughan ...

By Nuffield Foundation

Project overview

This project aims to improve understanding of why antisocial behaviour is more common in children (between the ages of 5 – 16) from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

Antisocial behaviour in young people causes extensive suffering for both victims and perpetrators, at a substantial cost to society. A wealth of evidence shows that antisocial behaviour is more common in children from families of lower socioeconomic status (SES) and a number of studies have previously explored the possible mechanisms which might underlie this link. However, to develop policies that can reduce both inequalities in, and absolute levels of child antisocial behaviour, it is crucial to understand how lower SES increases risk, and whether effects are consistent across development.

This project will address these issues in two linked studies:

  • The first study will systematically review and synthesise existing literature on the mechanisms underlying links between family SES and offspring antisocial behaviour
  • The second study will be guided by the findings of the aforementioned review. The project team will conduct new analyses of the linking mechanisms in two large-scale, nationally representative longitudinal data sets: the 1999 and 2004 British Child and Adolescent Mental Health Surveys.

Although a substantial body of literature has examined these issues, no comprehensive review exists to date. This project aims to understand the underlying mechanisms in more detail by including measures of child antisocial behaviour, family SES, parental mental health, parenting and peer context.


  • Dr Richard Rowe
    University of Sheffield
  • Professor Barbara Maughan
    King's College London
  • Dr Chris Stride
    University of Sheffield
  • Dr Patrycja Piotrowska
    University of Sydney

  • Cheryl Lloyd
    Programme Head, Education
    Nuffield Foundation
  • Director, Education
    Nuffield Foundation

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We aim to improve people’s lives by funding research that informs social policy, primarily in Education, Welfare and Justice. We also fund student programmes that give young people skills and confidence in science and research.

We are an open, collaborative and engaged funder that offers more than money. Through connecting the individual projects we fund, we strengthen their collective impact and give voice to an overarching narrative.