There has been significant interest in examining the developmental factors that predispose individuals to chronic criminal offending. This body of research has identified some social-environmental risk factors as potentially important. At the same time, the research producing these results has generally failed to employ genetically sensitive research designs, thereby potentially generating biased parameter estimates. The current study addresses this gap in the literature by using both a standard social science methodology (SSSM) and two separate genetically informative research designs to examine whether parent, teacher, and peer risk factors are associated with four maladaptive outcomes: arrests, low IQ, reduced self-control, and a combined measure of the "truly disadvantaged." Analysis of twin pairs drawn from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health revealed that the SSSMs produced upwardly biased estimates of the impact of social-environmental influences on each of the four outcomes. Once genetic factors were controlled, the effect of social-environmental risk was reduced (but remained significant in certain cases). We conclude by discussing these findings in the context of criminal justice policy and their implications for future criminological research.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Social Psychology
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
- Developmental Neuroscience
- Life-span and Life-course Studies