A dearth in research exists regarding the onset and escalation of misbehaviour in male, pre-pubescent, at-risk children. Insight into which factors contribute to the onset and escalation of such behaviour in this age group, as well as what could possibly assist in the prevention of misbehaviour, is lacking in criminological literature. While observational research into male, at-risk children is fraught with ethical concerns, an in-depth understanding of the perceptions of those responsible for their wellbeing could provide invaluable information on the topic. This study explored the perceptions of experts and guardians regarding the early onset of misbehaviour in male, at-risk children in child and youth care centres. The research employs an exploratory qualitative approach and sampled a total of fourteen participants made up of both experts and guardians. During the data collection phase, the research topic was investigated through the use of semi-structured interviews with five guardians, and a focus group discussion with nine experts. An integrated model of misbehaviour in at-risk children was compiled by combining the following theories: Tannenbaum�s labelling theory; Moffit�s developmental theory; Kohlberg�s theory of moral development; Hirschi�s social control theory; and Knight and Sims-Knight�s three path model of sexual offending. This model acted as the theoretical framework of the study.
The empirical findings of this study indicate that experts and guardians insist that numerous factors can contribute to both the onset and prevention of misbehaviour in male, at-risk children in child and youth care centres. The factors that experts and guardians thought contributed to the prevention of the onset of misbehaviour included: quality relationships with family members; parenting capacity; positive peer pressure at home/school; and the personal resilience of the individual. Conversely, some of the factors that experts and guardians considered to have contributed to the onset of misbehaviour included: lack of time to acclimatise to the child and youth care centre; environmental inconsistency; a non-resilient personality; negative peer pressure; and weak caregiver attachment. Finally, recommendations pertaining to possible focus areas in secondary crime prevention programmes aimed at curbing youth misbehaviour in male, at-risk children were provided.