June 1996

High Rates of Violence, Crime, Academic Problems, and Behavioral Problems in Males With Both Early Neuromotor Deficits and Unstable Family Environments

Author Affiliations

From the Departments of Psychology (Drs Raine, Brennan, and S. A. Mednick) and Education (Dr B. Mednick) and Social Science Research (Drs Brennan and S. A. Mednick), University of Southern California, Los Angeles; and Institute of Preventive Medicine, Copenhagen, the Netherlands (Dr S. A. Mednick).

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1996;53(6):544-549. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1996.01830060090012

Background:  It is commonly assumed that individuals with both biological and psychosocial deficits are more likely to become criminal, but there is surprisingly little empirical support for this assumption. We test the hypothesis that a group with biosocial risk factors are more likely to develop behavioral and academic problems in adolescence and violent criminal offending in adulthood compared with groups with only biological or only social risk factors.

Methods:  Hypotheses were tested on a sample of 397 male subjects, using obstetric and early neuromotor measures collected in the first year of life; family, social, demographic, and behavioral measures at age 17 to 19 years; and criminal data at 20 to 22 years of age.

Results:  Cluster analysis of the risk factors indicated a group with obstetric risk factors only, a group with poverty risk factors only, and a biosocial group with both early neuromotor deficits and unstable family environments. The biosocial group had more than double the adult violence, theft, and total crime rates of the other 2 groups and had significantly more behavioral and academic problems in adolescence.

Conclusions:  When early neuromotor deficits and negative family factors cluster together, individuals are particularly likely to become criminal and violent compared with those with only poverty or only obstetric risk factors. Because this biosocial group accounted for 70.2% of all crimes committed in the entire sample, early interventions that tackle these deficits might significantly reduce violence.