Psychosocial causes of offending

David P. Farrington

in New Oxford Textbook of Psychiatry

Second edition

Published on behalf of Oxford University Press

Published in print February 2012 | ISBN: 9780199696758
Published online October 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191743221 | DOI:
Psychosocial causes of offending

Show Summary Details


Offending is part of a larger syndrome of antisocial behaviour that arises in childhood and tends to persist into adulthood. There seems to be continuity over time, since the antisocial child tends to become the antisocial teenager and then the antisocial adult, just as the antisocial adult then tends to produce another antisocial child. The main focus of this chapter is on types of antisocial behaviour classified as criminal offences, rather than on types classified for example as conduct disorder or antisocial personality disorder. In an attempt to identify causes, this chapter reviews risk factors that influence the development of criminal careers. Literally thousands of variables differentiate significantly between official offenders and non-offenders and correlate significantly with reports of offending behaviour by young people. In this chapter, it is only possible to review briefly some of the most important risk factors for offending: individual difference factors such as high impulsivity and low intelligence, family influences such as poor child rearing and criminal parents, and social influences: socio-economic deprivation, peer, school, community, and situational factors. I will be very selective in focussing on some of the more important and replicable findings obtained in some of the more methodologically adequate studies: especially prospective longitudinal follow-up studies of large community samples, with information from several data sources (e.g. the child, the parent, the teacher, official records) to maximize validity. The emphasis is on offending by males; most research on offending has concentrated on males, because they commit most of the serious predatory and violent offences. The review is limited to research carried out in the United Kingdom, the United States, and similar Western industrialized democracies. More extensive book length reviews of antisocial behaviour and offending are available elsewhere.

Chapter.  8492 words. 

Subjects: Psychiatry

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.