Characteristics of offences in a subset of youths and young adults with FASD: A qualitative content analysis

Miss Kuen Yee Grace Tan2, Dr Carmela Pestell1, Dr James Fitzpatrick1, Dr Martyn Symons3

1Patches Paediatrics, Nedlands, Australia, 2School of Psychological Science, University of Western Australia, Crawley, Australia, 3Telethon Kids Institute


Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is a condition caused by prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE). Primary neurodevelopmental disabilities as a result of PAE increase the likelihood of justice system involvement. This is highlighted by the established high prevalence of FASD in a Western Australia’s detention centre. Comparing the nature and frequency of crimes in this clinical population is important, as it will potentially aid in early identification of those with FASD who are at risk of justice involvement. Improving our understanding about criminal behaviour and the neuropsychological implications in this clinical group will hopefully assist in developing better targeted diversionary programs and interventions to reduce the cycle of recidivism.


Participants were individuals (10-31 years) from a pool of approximately 250 who had been diagnosed with FASD at PATCHES multidisciplinary clinics across Western Australia and the Northern Territory. Qualitative content analysis on source documentation was conducted to determine the themes surrounding the nature and frequency of offences in this cohort. This information was compared against the rates and nature of crimes in the general population obtained from the Australian Institute of Criminology.


Preliminary content analysis using NVivo resulted in 4 themes on the type of offence (i.e., criminal damage, assault, burglary, and disorderly behaviour). Specifically, criminal damage such as property destruction was the most common; while offences such as sexual assaults were the least common. Further analysis comparing results of this clinical population with the comparison group will be included in the presentation.


Grace Tan is a third-year PhD student at the University of Western Australia (UWA), supervised by Dr James Fitzpatrick, Associate Professor Carmela Pestell, Dr Martyn Symons and Professor Donna Cross. She completed her Bachelor of Science (honours) in Psychological Science in 2016. She is now undertaking a combined PhD/Masters of Clinical Neuropsychology program at UWA, and is a registered provisional psychologist. Grace’s PhD projects focus on investigating the relationship between FASD, trauma and the justice system. She has experience working with Aboriginal communities in Western Australia and is guided by a cultural mentor.

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