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Child and adolescent risk factors that differentially predict violent versus nonviolent crime


Aggressive Behavior

Published online on


While most research on the development of antisocial and criminal behavior has considered nonviolent and violent crime together, some evidence points to differential risk factors for these separate types of crime. The present study explored differential risk for nonviolent and violent crime by investigating the longitudinal associations between three key child risk factors (aggression, emotion dysregulation, and social isolation) and two key adolescent risk factors (parent detachment and deviant peer affiliation) predicting violent and nonviolent crime outcomes in early adulthood. Data on 754 participants (46% African American, 50% European American, 4% other; 58% male) oversampled for aggressive‐disruptive behavior were collected across three time points. Parents and teachers rated aggression, emotion dysregulation, and social isolation in fifth grade (middle childhood, age 10–11); parents and youth rated parent detachment and deviant peer affiliation in seventh and eighth grade (early adolescence, age 12–14) and arrest data were collected when participants were 22–23 years old (early adulthood). Different pathways to violent and nonviolent crime emerged. The severity of child dysfunction in late childhood, including aggression, emotion dysregulation, and social isolation, was a powerful and direct predictor of violent crime. Although child dysfunction also predicted nonviolent crime, the direct pathway accounted for half as much variance as the direct pathway to violent crime. Significant indirect pathways through adolescent socialization experiences (peer deviancy) emerged for nonviolent crime, but not for violent crime, suggesting adolescent socialization plays a more distinctive role in predicting nonviolent than violent crime. The clinical implications of these findings are discussed.