Research suggests that any child including yours might turn into the most wanted criminal tomorrow. It’s more than likely that an adult serial killer or any other adult criminal has had an abnormal, dysfunctional and inappropriate mental process during his or her childhood (Slot & Hoeve, 2016). You might be breeding future potential criminals if you fail to help your child form meaningful bonds, fail to address predictors of violence at an early age, fail to address externalizing behaviour, fail to address certain personality traits at early childhood that are linked to malevolent behaviour and criminality; fail to instil self-control during childhood, and help the child learn to challenge cognitive distortions.


Aggression, crime, and hyperactivity are collectively referred to as externalizing behaviour. Aggression is a conduct disorder consisting of verbal or physical behaviours that threaten to harm or harm others, including animals, adults and children. This externalizing behaviour may be self-protective and appropriate or destructive to others and self (Foshee & Bauman, 1992). Studies have identified this externalizing behaviour to strongly predict adult violence and crime and convictions (Moffitt, 1993). For example, aggressive behaviours at ages 6 to 13 are thought to predict later violence among boys. Studies have also revealed that continuity in the child’s antisocial behaviour predicts aggression, which predict later violent crime (Loeber & Hay, 1996). In another study involving African American boys, McCord and Ensminger (1995), found that nearly 50% of 6-year-olds who were identified with aggressive and hyperactivity behaviours were arrested for committing violent crimes at age 33. On the contrary, only one-third of the non-aggressive boys were arrested for the same crimes (McCord & Ensminger, 1995).

Crime is a heterogeneous concept reflecting diverse antisocial actions, including robbery, drug use, violence, vandalism, burglary and theft (Achenbach, 1978). Like aggression, crime in early childhood is believed to predict adult violence, crime and convictions (Tolan & Thomas, 1995). In addition, early onset of crime and violence has been linked to more chronic and serious violence (Tolan & Thomas, 1995). In Farrington’s (1995) study, one-half of boys aged between 10 and 16 initiated into early violence and crime were convicted of committing violent crimes by age 25. Conversely, only 8% of Juveniles aged from 10 to 16 were not initiated early in crime were convicted of crimes at age 25.

Hyperactivity is a conduct and externalizing behaviour. Children with this disorder are seriously impaired. These children have social adjustment problems in adulthood. They are more likely to grow into psychopaths, an antisocial behaviour characterized by blunted affect, lack of guilt and remorse, attention problems, irresponsible behaviour and impulsivity (Ou & Reynolds, 2010). This antisocial behaviour and other problems predispose these children to violence and crime later in life.


A child’s personality has been identified as a factor that predisposes him or her to violence and crime in adulthood. The three personality traits, which are captured in Eynseck’s PEN model, namely Psychoticism, Extraversion and Neuroticism, have been linked to criminality (Romero, Luengo, & Sobral, 2001; Robinson, 2004). For example, Daderman (1999) revealed that delinquents had higher score in PEN variables compared to the control group (non-delinquents).

Again, neuroticism scores are thought to reflect antisocial behaviour, impulsive behaviour and emotional instability (Blackburn, 1993). Individuals with psychoticism personality traits are characterized by hostility, cruelty, low empathy, impulsivity, socialization deficit, aggressiveness, and psychopathy (Blackburn, 1993). These characteristics are identified with delinquents and criminals (Blackburn, 1993). High scores of neuroticism and psychoticism have also been associated with juvenile crime, which is thought to predict criminal behaviour later in life. Others studies have positively related juvenile crime with extraversion and psychoticism (Heaven, 1996).

High Impulsive Sensation Seeking (ImpSS) scores have been associated with criminal behaviour. It is argued that individuals with high score of ImpSS are used to social unacceptable and risky activities. This involvement in criminal activities arises from sensation seeking and searching for high arousal (Buker, 2011). For example, studies (Cernovsky, O’Reilly, & Pennington, 1997; Zuckerman, Ball, & Black, 1990) have positively associated sensation seeking criminal and imprudent behaviours including risky sexual behaviour, illicit drug abuse, alcohol abuse and smoking.


Lack of self-control has been found to predict a child’s violent behaviour later in life (Buker, 2011). Evidence from criminological, sociological and psychological literature have suggested an association between low-self-control and deviant or criminal behaviour (Gottfredson & Hirschi, 1990; Payne, Higgins, & Blackwell, 2010). In fact, it is believed that poor self-control is the key cause of delinquent and criminal behaviour later in life (Gottfredson & Hirschi, 1990).


Cognitive Distortions (CDs) are biases or inaccurate ways of conferring or attending meaning on experiences (Barriga, Landau, Stinson, Liau, & Gibbs, 2000). These distortions are represented with “minimisations”, “antisocial attitudes”, “justifications” “criminal thinking style”, “rationalisations”, “Self-Serving Cognitive Distortions (SSCD)” and “Social Cognition” (Walters, 1995; Abel et al., 1989; Murphy, 1990). Social-cognitive theories provide that CD makes individuals to block their moral judgements with a view to justify their avoidance of responsibility for own attitudinal and behavioural problems (Kamaluddin, Shariff, Nurfarliza, Othman, Ismail, & Mat Saat, 2014). Criminology literature has also suggested that CDs may contribute to problematic behavioural and emotional responses, which may ultimately lead to deviant and criminal behaviour (Gendreau, Little, & Goggin, 1996). Elsewhere SSCD has identified as criminogenic and antisocial attitudes that insulate individuals from a negative self-concept or blame (Barriga et al., 2000).


Psychologists have identified predictors of violence at an early age and grouped them into five: individual including factors, family factors, school factors, peer-related factors, neighbourhood and community factors. Individual factors include physical, medical, aggressiveness, internalizing disorders, attitudes and beliefs favourable to antisocial or deviant behaviours; involvement in anti-social behaviours, concentration problems, hyperactivity, risk taking, and restlessness; early initiation violence behaviours; low resting hear rate and internalizing disorders. Family factors include child maltreatment, parental attitude favouring violence or substance use, parent-child separation, family conflict and poor family bonding, low level of involvement of parent in children development, parental criminality and poor family management practices. School factors include low bonding to school, academic failure, dropping out of school and truancy and frequent school transitions. Peer-related factors include gang membership, delinquent peers, and criminal siblings. Neighbourhood and community factors include community disorganization, poverty, neighbourhood adults engaged in crime, availability of firearms and drugs, exposure to racial prejudice and violence (Shader, 2004).

Violence in your child’s life is predicted by delivery trauma and prenatal. Kandel and Mednick (1991) found an association between delivery and pregnancy complications and violence.

Low resting heart rate indicates an under arousal or fearless temperament, which is believed to predispose a person to violence and aggression (Farrington, 1998). Farrington (1998) found low resting pulse rate to predict violent crime. This suggests that a child with a low resting heart rate, or one who had delivery and pregnancy complications may be predisposed to violent behaviour and crime.

Evidence from meta-analysis confirms a correlation between risk-taking, concentration problems, restlessness, and hyperactivity and later violent behaviours. In a longitudinal study, Klinteberg et al. (1993) found that boys with concentration difficulties and restlessness were more likely than those without these characteristics to be arrested for engaging in criminal activities. Fifteen per cent (15%) of boys with concentration difficulties and restlessness at age 13 were convicted of committing crime at 26. Similarly, Farrington (1989) found that male students with restlessness and concentration problems, including frequent talkativeness, the tendency to fidget and difficulty sitting still, were likely to engage in violence and crime later in life. Academic difficulties were found in children with concentration problems, which also predicted later violence.

Attitudes favourable to violence, anti-social attitudes and beliefs, hostility towards police, and dishonesty have been shown to predict later violence among young males (Williams, 1994). Williams (1994) suggested that intervention programs aimed at helping young males to develop standards and positive beliefs could enable them to reject cheating, rule breaking and minimize the risk of violence.

Studies have associated the involvement of a child in antisocial behaviours, notably drug selling, property destruction, stealing, early sexual intercourse, smoking and self-reported crime, with increased risk of violence (Zingraff, Leiter, Myers, & Johnson, 1993).

Parental criminality has have been found to predict child criminality at later stages of life. Farrington (1989) found boys whose parents were convicted of crime before their 10th birthday to be more likely to engage in violent crimes than boys whose parents did not have a criminal record. Similarly, Baker and Mednick (1984) revealed men aged between 18 and 23 with criminal parents to be 3-8 times more likely than those with non-criminal parents to have been convicted of criminal acts. (Baker & Mednick, 1984)

Neglect, sexual abuse and physical abuse are forms of child maltreatment that have been linked to violent crimes. Evidence shows that neglected or physically abused children are more likely than other children to commit violent acts in their later lives (Smith & Thornberry, 1995; Zingraff et al., 1993).

Studies have linked family management practices namely parental failure to create behavioural expectations for children, poor supervision, inconsistent and severe discipline, and poor monitoring to substance abuses and crime in later life. Supporting this assertion, Wells and Rankin (1988) noted that children from strict parents committed more violent crimes compared to those with permissive parents. Conversely, children whose parents were neither too lax nor too strict were least violent. Similarly, children whose parents inconsistently punished them, ignored the same behaviour or sometimes punished them were more likely than others whose parents consistently punished them to commit violent offenses. Parental harshness and punitiveness were also found to predict later violence. In another study, it was revealed that poor child-rearing; poor parental supervision; authoritarian parenting style, parental disagreement about childrearing, a cruel neglectful or passive parenting attitude, and harsh parental discipline, all predicted children involvement in crime later in life (Farrington, 1995).

It has been suggested that strong parental involvement into child development is a protective factor against crime and violence. On the contrary, less parental involvement and interaction in child development may predict future involvement in crime (Williams, 1994). As revealed by Williams (1994), parent-child involvement and communication at age 14 reduced the self-reported criminal behaviours at age 16.

Research suggests that parent-child separation disrupts parent-child relationships and predicts violent behaviour later in life. Henry et al. (1996) indicated that children with a single parent at age 13 predicted their involvement in crime by age 18.

School factors such as low interest in education, low educational achievement, poor-quality schools, truancy, and dropping out of school contributed to later violent and criminal behaviour (Maguin & Loeber, 1996; Hawkins, Farrington & Catalano, 1998).

Denno (1990) revealed that poor academic achievement in school predicted later crime. It was also revealed that academic failure in school increased one’s risk for later crime and violent behaviour (Maguin, Hawkins, Catalano, Hill, Abbott, & Herrenkohl, 1995).

It was revealed by Farrington (1989) that a child at age 10 growing with delinquent siblings is likely to have later convictions for crime and violence. Similarly, Maguin et al. (1995) confirmed a strong association between later conviction for crime and violence and having delinquent siblings and that that antisocial siblings strongly influence other adolescence siblings. It was also confirmed by Moffitt (1993) that adolescents whose peers did not approve of delinquent behaviour had a low likelihood of committing crime acts. Elsewhere, gang membership is believed to predict later crime (Battin, Hill, Abbott, Catalano, & Hawkins, 1998).

Lastly, neighbourhood and community factors, including community disorganization, low neighbourhood attachment, poverty, the availability of firearms and drugs, frequent media portrayal of violence, exposure to racial prejudice and violence, and norms and laws favourable to violence may predict later violence and crime (Brewer et al., 1995; Sampson & Lauritsen, 1994; Henry et al., 1996).


The factors that predispose your child to crime and violence later in life and the causal factors that underlie the problem can be conceptualized using a biosocial model. This model proposes a relationship between predictors of violence and outcome. In this case, biological and psychological risk factors during a child’s prenatal period give rise to factors that predict violence and crime later in life. This suggests that psychological and biological risk factors influence the tendency of committing crime and involvement in violence later in life (Stoff, Breiling, & Maser, 1997).


The Biosocial Model has biological personality traits as its first component. During the perinatal and prenatal period, these risk factors include both maternal and genetic pathophysiological factors that affect the development and growth of the foetus. These factors include illness during pregnancy, maternal malnutrition, using alcohol and drugs, smoking during pregnancy, birth complications and a genetic predisposition to risks factors from the father and mother. Of importance are the Foetal Alcohol Syndrome and other factors such as Corpus Collosum that leads to the neural maldevelopment of the foetus (Stoff, Breiling, & Maser, 1997). Tobacco use during pregnancy directly affects the central nervous system’s structures while complications during pregnancy may injure the central nervous system of the new-born leading to enhanced maladaptive behaviours and other externalizing behaviours (Orlebeke, Knol, & Verhulst, 1997).


Psychosocial risk factors constitute the second element of the Biosocial Interaction Model. These risk factors are social and psychological in nature and occur during early childhood. These factors can be conceptualized as not biological and include high psychosocial stress, teenage pregnancy, poverty, negative attitude during pregnancy, and psychiatric factors (i.e., alcohol and drug abuse) (Curran, White, & Hansell, 2000).


In conclusion, the dynamics of crime and violence are best captured from the developmental approach (adolescence). This approach recognizes the change of behaviour over time. At this time of the child development, your child might experience tumultuous change, which could make them vulnerable; leading to increased means and frequency of expression of risky behaviours, including violence and others.

Aggression, crime, and hyperactivity predict adult violence and crime. Similarly, antisocial behaviour, emotional instability, a lack of self-control among adolescents should be treated as red alerts. Parents need to realize the importance of influence of the family, the school and the community in their child’s life. In fact, the mother’s behaviour and substance addictions during pregnancy have also been identified as risk factors.

For this reason, if you want to avoid breeding future potential criminals, target every stage stage of development – from prenatal to adolescence. Knowing what can negatively impact your child and taking meaningful actions to prevent them for happening is the best thing you can do for your child’s future.


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