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Parents are the best deterrent

David Smith, professor of criminology at Edinburgh University, said children's behaviour was shaped in the home. "Put simply, the findings show that good parenting can prevent crime," Professor Smith states.

"By contrast, parents who are inconsistent and harsh, and who easily give in to unreasonable demands, are more likely to see their teenage children turn to delinquency.

"The reports also demonstrate the influence of a wide range of other factors, from socio-economic status to the community and environment young people grow up in.

"But peers and parents have an important influence on top of these external factors."

The study found the young people who experienced the most victimisation reported committing an average of one offence per week, compared with one every two months for non-victims.

At the age of 13, 40 per cent of girls had sprayed graffiti on property in the previous 12 months, compared with 29 per cent of boys.

But at the age of 15 boys were three times more likely than girls to carry a weapon and twice as likely to be involved in a fight.

The type of parenting children receive between the ages of 12 and 13 helps to determine their level of delinquency at the age of 15, according to the research.

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