No. XVI (1989)

The socially maladjusted youth (a follow-up study)

Zofia Ostrihanska
Institute of State and Law of the Polish Academy of Sciences
Dobrochna Wójcik
Institute of State and Law of the Polish Academy of Sciences

Published 1989-10-08


  • youth,
  • socially maladjusted,
  • behaviour,
  • catamnestic research,
  • boys,
  • alcohol consumption

How to Cite

Ostrihanska, Z., & Wójcik, D. (1989). The socially maladjusted youth (a follow-up study). Archives of Criminology, (XVI), 141–188.


              The paper presents further fates of socially maladjusted children from Warsaw elementary schools in the period from 1976-1978 (when they were examined for the first time) till 1985 (when they were interviewed again and their criminal records were checked). The children to be included in the study had been indicated by their teachers due to intense and cumulated symptoms of social maladjustment (though nor necessarily offences). The following acts were found to be symptoms of maladjustment: regular truancy, loitering, running away from home; contacts with demoralized peers; thefts; drinking of alcohol; sexual depravation; vandalism; aggressive behaviour. Further fates of those examined persons were compared with the fates of their non-maladjusted classmates whose fathers, socio-professional status was the same as in the basic group.

               Four to six years passed from the initial interview till the catamnesis. Criminal records were checked for a period of about seven years. During the first study, boys from both groups were aged 10-16; accordingly, they were aged 16-24 during the follow-up period. The second study included  243 maladjusted boys, with the control group of  139, while 262 and 151 boys respectively had been examined during the first study.

               Longitudinal studies of social maladjustment are very important, as they render it possible to appraise the initial symptoms of social maladjustment and to define their prognostic value. Such studies also make a discrimination possible between transitory difficulties which are frequently related to a definite stage of the child’s development, and behavior that requires specialistic treatment . Moreover, basing of such studies, the quality and results of interventions taken towards the socially maladjusted youth can be appraised.

               The follow-up study was aimed at answering the following questions:

 a) What - if any were the changes of family situation of boys from both

groups ?

b)What were the further fates of the socially maladjusted boys as compared with member of the control group? In particular, did they finish elementary school, did they continue their education, what secondary school did they choose and did they finish that school?

c) Do those out of school work? What profession are they in? Are they satisfied with that profession and the work they perform?

d) What are the leisure habits of the examined boys?

e) What are the drinking habits, delinquency, and criminal records of the socially maladjusted boys as compared with their peers from the control group ?

  1. In both groups, the examined persons family situation underwent various changes during the catamnesis, and so did the relations between them and their parents. The changes consisted mainly in 42.8 per cent of the maladjusted boys staying temporarily away from which frequently resulted from the court's or educational authorities decisions to send them to educational or correctional institutions. Boys from the control group usually spent the entire follow-up period at home.

              The two groups differed as regards their family environments, those of the  socially maladjusted boys being much less favourable. These differences grew during the follow-up period as regards many factors (broken home, the fathers irregular employment or lack of permanent job, excessive drinking).

  1. Also the school situations clearly differentiated the two-groups both in the first study and during the follow-up period. At the moment of the second examination, only one boy from the control group was still going to elementary school, while there were as many as 40 (16.5 per cent) of such boys among those socially maladjusted. This proportion seems very large the fact considered we deal here with young persons whose intellectual development is normal, and with the educational level necessary for the individual’s future professional activities and participation in the country’s social and cultural life . (The fact should also be stressed here that in the first study, nearly half of the socially maladjusted boys were in standard VII at the very least, and thus not far from finishing school). As shown by our study, the chances for learning and finishing elementary school later in life are extremely poor.

               All members of the control group and two-thirds of the socially maladjusted boys learned on after finishing elementary school. It appeared that those from the basic group not only continued education less frequently (this fact being related to their educational backwardness), but also changed and left schools (35.1 per cent) much more frequently than boys from the control group (21.1 per cent).  It seems, however, that changing and leaving school takes place very often in the control group, too. This testifies to learning difficulties of elementary school graduates and to their frequent mistakes in choosing the line and type of education. It is worth mentioning here that, in the light of the  examined persons statements, the institutions assigned to render professional guidance to young persons influenced their decisions to a minimal degree only.

               At the moment of follow-up interviews, as many as 162 socially maladjusted boys and only 35 members of the control group were already out of school. Less than a half (46.9 per cent) of  the former finished elementary school, while nearly all (97.6 per cent) of those from the control group who were  not learning anymore managed to reach that educational level. The secondary schools which the socially maladjusted boys who were not learning anymore finished were frequently (in 35.5 per cent of case) shortened courses.

               The examined persons often left elementary school defeated and hostile towards it; they had no professional aspirations and acceptable leisure habits. Our findings seem to demonstrate that elementary school and the associated institutions frequently fail confronted with difficult children from negative families.

  1. An appraisal of the examined persons, employment is difficult due to their different life situations and ages. Among those employed from the control group there was a greater number of apprentices as compared with the socially maladjusted group (where  apprentices constituted 5-per cent only of those employed). Nearly half of those from the basic group (46.4 per cent) were skilled workers, and 44.3 per cent performed manual work that required no professional qualifications. Thus in nearly half of the cases, when starting on their professional careers, socially maladjusted boys had no chance to train in a profession.

               The two groups also differ greatly as regards professional aspirations and their fulfillment.  The socially maladjusted  boys  had no particular professional plans in a greater proportion of cases (27 per cent) than members of  the control group (7 per cent). Asked whether  the professional plans they hand on finishing elementary school ever came true , nearly  half (48 per cent) of the socially maladjusted answered in the negative, and just 20 per cent-in the affirmative. The respective proportions were reversed In the control group: 53 per cent of affirmative and 30.7 per cent of negative answers.

              Generally speaking, those employed are not pleased with their earnings. Asked about the wages which which satisfy them, they frequently mentioned sums several times higher than what they were paid. The fact is worthy of notice that those who finished a secondary school are not at all those who earn most.

  1. As shown by the analysis of the examined persons, leisure habits, the socially maladjusted are more passive in this respect, their leisure activities being less diversified and restricted to having fun and social contacts only. The leisure habits they follow create frequent opportunities to drink alcohol, and some of their activities (like a game of billiards or cards) make it necessary for them always to have money which they would spend on such games.
  2. The following conclusions can be drawn from the analysis of the examined persons drinking habits: during catamnesis, 43.1 per cent of the socially maladjusted and 25.1 per cent of members of the control group drank alcohol (vodka or wine) at least once a week and or drank larger amounts on one occasion (i. e. more than 200 cl. Vodka or 600 cl. wine). the respective proportions of teetotalers (according to their own and their mothers statements) were 15.7 and 19.6 per cent. The boys who had drunk repeatedly in the first study were also found to drink regularly during the follow-up period, while a considerable proportion of those who had abstained from alcohol before drank only seldom and small amounts later on, too. An opinion is thus justified that repeated drinking by children and young persons, if it stars at a young age (and particularly if it accompanied by other symptoms of social maladjustment), is not a transistory phenomenon but develops into a relatively persistent lifestyle and leisure habit with time, those affected following that habit in the company of similarly oriented peers. In the first study, repeated drinking coexisted with other symptoms of social maladjustment, such as truancy, running away from home, stealing etc. As shown by the analysis of such persons further life situation, their attitude towards and extent of drinking does not change with time as a rule, instead, their drinking habits grow more excessive and are related, like before, to disturbed socialization.

               Moreover, regular drinking is related to other negative factors as well. Excessive drinkers among those socially maladjusted frequently failed to finish school; is they succeeded after all, it was usually a year or more later than their peers. This fact negatively influenced their chances to learn on and to train in a profession. Among such boys there was also a greater proportion of those who neither learned nor worked during the catamnesis (p<0.05). Stealing was also more frequent among them (p<0.001), and so were contacts with peers who committed thefts (p<0.01) and who drank regularly (p<0.02), as well as drug abuse (p<0.05) and self-mutilations (p<0.02), committed more frequently as compared with the remaining socially maladjusted boys.

               Also in the control group, boys who drank during the fallow-up period stole (p<0.01), belonged to regularly drinking peer groups (p<0.001), and stayed out of school and work (p<0.01) more frequently than others from that group.

               Therefore, regular drinking renders difficult such examined persons proper start into adult life.

               As regards criminal records, the group of socially maladjusted proved to be differentiated. This concerns both the initial stage of our study when one-third of those boys had already had cases at family courts, and the follow-up period when the percentage of those with criminal records went up to 55.8. As many as 30 per cent of the examined persons had cases at criminal courts after the age of 17, and every fourth of those who had cases at courts (both family and common courts) had been convicted at least four times. Despite the differentiation, the data concerning criminal records are rather alarming, the extent of delinquency gradually becoming higher during the seven years of catamnesis.

               If we compare socially maladjusted boys who never had any cases at court with those previously convicted, the number of convictions taken into account, these two groups prove to differ not only as regards their respective careers in this regards. It appears that various negative factors found both in the examined persons themselves and in their families and peer groups are more frequent in those previously convicted and repeatedly convicted as compared with those. who have no criminal record. Fathers of the former have their own criminal records more frequently, and the boys themselves more often have stealing and drinking friends. They also reveal a greater number of various symptoms of social maladjustment; during the follow-up period, more of them neither learned nor worked, and more failed to finish elementary school or only finished it behind time.

               As follows from our study social maladjustment when going to elementary school does not necessarily determine such young persons' further demoralization. The group of socially maladjusted boys is highly diversified in many respects. At the same time, it also differs greatly from the control group, being much worse: those socially maladjusted reach a lower educational level and wages, are more displeased with their own lives, and more excessive in their drinking habits, and also commit offences and have cases at court more frequently. The extent of maladjustment found in that group seems rather large which manifests among others the small range and poor effectiveness of preventive actions taken towards the examined persons by the competent educational institutions.


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