From February 2017, information about the work of the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow is available and updated on the University of Glasgow website.

Young offenders and fatherhood

Young offenders are often socially excluded young men at high sexual risk. A largely qualitative study with 67 men in a Young Offender Institution (YOI) investigated attitudes towards, and experiences of, sexual relationships, sexual health and sexual health services (Buston, 2008). This found over half the men interviewed had undergone Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) testing with most of them having been tested within the YOI where the process was convenient and accessible. The work concluded that introducing routine screening programmes for STIs in YOIs could reduce the prevalence of STIs in the wider community (Buston and Wight, 2010).

The study also explored experiences of, and attitudes towards, pregnancy and fatherhood amongst the young men. Over a quarter of those interviewed believed they had been responsible for a partner’s pregnancy, with one in eight having become fathers. All of the fathers expressed a strong desire to be ‘a good father’. Amongst those who were not fathers most said they did not feel ready to become a parent. Most, however, had given little or no thought to the possibility of a sexual partner becoming pregnant. Sexual health and parenting interventions for young offenders might modify their attitudes and provide skills to facilitate better fathering and, for those who acknowledge they are not yet ready for fatherhood, encourage them to reflect on their procreative, and contraceptive, responsibilities (Buston, 2010).

Building on this research we conducted a literature review of the effectiveness of parenting interventions for young male offenders, using systematic methods (Buston et al. 2012). We have recently entered a collaboration with Polmont Young Offenders Institution and Barnardos to test, refine and evaluate a fatherhood programme for young male offenders.



Buston K, Parkes A, Thomson H, Wight D, Fenton C. Parenting interventions for male young offenders: a review of evidence on what works. Journal of Adolescence 2012;35:731-742

pubmed  open access  

Buston K, Wight D. Young fathers in prison: helping them parent. In: Simpson C, editor Scotland: the best place in the world to bring up children? A collection of essays about parenting in Scotland. Edinburgh: Parenting across Scotland, 2012:128-30.


Buston K, Wight D. Self-reported sexually transmitted infection testing behaviour amongst incarcerated young male offenders: findings from a qualitative study. Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care 2010;36:7-11

pubmed  open access  

Buston K. Experiences of, and attitudes towards, pregnancy and fatherhood amongst incarcerated young male offenders: findings from a qualitative study. Social Science & Medicine 2010;71:2212-18



Buston K. Behind and beyond the prison bars: young offenders talk about sex and relationships. MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit Occasional Paper no. 18, Glasgow, 2008

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