Tomorrow's criminals can be identified by age of five

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The Independent Online

Children as young as five can be identified as tomorrow's future criminals, depressives and drop-outs, says research produced for the Prime Minister's Strategy Unit.

Key factors in a child's life - for example, whether they grow up in an overcrowded home, with parents who smoke or are unemployed - have a dramatic effect on their future prospects.

The report underpins the Government's decision to intervene to help children as soon as they are born.

"By age five, it is possible to identify over one-third of those who will experience multiple deprivation 25 years later in adulthood," says the report by Leon Feinstein and Ricardo Sabates, of the Institute of Education, University of London.

Children who were truants at age 10, who wet the bed, or who had fathers who showed a "dismissive attitude", had a far higher chance of having problems later in life. Those with poor communication skills as children had worse prospects than keen talkers.

"It is possible to accurately identify children and families who would benefit from appropriate and effective intervention, were such interventions available," the report says.

FLASHPOINTS

AGE 5: Not toilet trained; parents have a dismissive attitude; child isn't read to.

AGE 10: Parents have no qualifications and are unemployed; child bullied in school; poor academic performance.

AGE 15: Overcrowded home; smokes; truants; parents on benefits; child not encouraged to stay on at school.

OUTCOME AS AN ADULT: Affected by these trigger points throughout early life, more likely to: end up in unskilled jobs; suffer from depression; turn to crime.