The Edinburgh Study is a long term programme of research tracking pathways into and out of offending for a cohort of around 4,300 young people who started secondary education in the City of Edinburgh in 1998. The purpose
of the current project (co-funded by Scottish Government) was to track the criminal justice careers of cohort members (from age 8, the age of criminal responsibility in Scotland, to 22) with a focus on transitions from the juvenile to the adult system, and to assess the impact of these careers on desistance from criminal offending. It aimed to build on and test the evidence from earlier analysis that social reaction to crime may have a central role to play in both its construction and amplification, and to assess the policy implications of this (McAra and McVie 2005, 2007). The project had three key objectives: (i) to examine the individual characteristics, patterns of offending, and social context of children who move from the juvenile to adult justice system, with a particular focus on institutional care histories and assessed levels of need; (ii) to explore the nature and extent of their early contact with the adult criminal justice system (including social work and the Scottish prison service) from age 16 to 18 and the impact of such contact on subsequent delinquent and other behaviour;(iii) to evaluate the longer term outcomes of both early and later intervention by the children’s hearings system and its impact on behaviour in late teenage and early adult years.
The research was based on structured face-to-face interviews with a sub-sample of the cohort and extraction of data from agency records (Scottish criminal conviction records, social work and prison files). The sub-sample was to include: all cohort members who were referred to the children’s Reporter1 on offence grounds and who were still thought to be contactable by 2009 (n=391); plus two groups of cohortees matched respectively to the characteristics of the young people who were referred at an early stage to the Reporter i.e. by age 12 (n=82), and those whose first referral occurred later, at age 15 (n=90): making a total of 563.