Although parental criminal offending is a recognized risk factor for conduct problems among offspring, its impact on the continuity and discontinuity of children’s behavioural and emotional difficulties during the early development is less well known. We used data from a large, population-based record-linkage project to examine the relationship between parental offending and the continuity and discontinuity of children’s conduct, attentional, and emotional difficulties from early to middle childhood while also considering the role of timing of the parental offending exposure.
Data for 19,208 children and their parents were drawn from the New South Wales Child Development Study. Multinomial regression analyses tested associations between mother’s and father’s history and timing of any and violent offending, and patterns of continuity or discontinuity in offspring emotional, conduct, and attentional difficulties between ages 5 and 11 years.
Maternal and paternal offending each conferred a significantly increased risk of all the patterns of developmental difficulties, including those limited to age 5 only (remitting problems), to age 11 only (incident problems), and to difficulties present at both ages 5 and 11 years (persisting problems). Greatest odds were observed for persisting conduct problems. Paternal offending that continued through early and middle childhood had the greatest association with child difficulties, while the timing of maternal offending had a less prominent effect on child developmental difficulties.
Parental offending is a strong risk factor for early and pervasive behavioural and emotional problems in offspring, and may be a key indicator of high risk for later antisocial behaviour.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
Beaver KM (2013) The familial concentration and transmission of crime. Crim Justice Behav 40:139–155. https://doi.org/10.1177/0093854812449405
Besemer S, Ahmad SI, Hinshaw SP, Farrington DP (2017) A systematic review and meta-analysis of the intergenerational transmission of criminal behaviour. Aggress Viol Beh 37:161–178. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.avb.2017.10.004
Frisell T, Lichtenstein P, Långström N (2010) Violent crime runs in families: a total population study of 12.5 million individuals. Psychol Med 41:97–105. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0033291710000462
Thornberry TP, Freeman-Gallant A, Lovegrove PJ (2009) Intergenerational linkages in antisocial behaviour. Crim Behav Ment Health 19:80–93. https://doi.org/10.1002/cbm.709
Vaughn MG, Salas-Wright CP, DeLisi M, Qian Z (2014) The antisocial family tree: family histories of behavior problems in antisocial personality in the United States. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 50:821–831. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00127-014-0987-9
Raudino A, Fergusson DM, Woodward LJ, Horwood LJ (2013) The intergenerational transmission of conduct problems. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 48:465–476. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00127-012-0547-0
Marmorstein NR, Malone SM, Iacono WG (2004) Psychiatric disorders among offspring of depressed mothers: associations with paternal psychopathology. Am J Psychiatry 161:1588–1594. https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.ajp.161.9.1588
Latvala A, Kuja-Halkola R, Långström N, Lichtenstein P (2014) Paternal antisocial behavior and sons’ cognitive ability: a population-based quasiexperimental study. Psychol Sci 26. 78–88. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797614555726
Loeber R, Farrington DP (2000) Young children who commit crime: epidemiology, developmental origins, risk factors, early interventions, and policy implications. Dev Psychopathol 12:737–762. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0954579400004107
Erskine HE, Norman RE, Ferrari AJ, Chan GCK, Copeland WE, Whiteford HA, Scott JG (2016) Long-term outcomes of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and conduct disorder: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 55:841–850. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaac.2016.06.016
Moffitt TE (2018) Male antisocial behaviour in adolescence and beyond. Nature Hum Behav 2:177–186. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-018-0309-4
Loeber R, Keenan K (1994) Interaction between conduct disorder and its comorbid conditions: effects of age and gender. Clin Psychol Rev 14:497–523. https://doi.org/10.1016/0272-7358(94)90015-9
Bor W, McGee TR, Fagan AA (2004) Early risk factors for adolescent antisocial behaviour: an Australian longitudinal study. Aust N Z J Psychiatry 38, 365–372. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1440-1614.2004.01365.x
Bornovalova MA, Hicks BM, Iacono WG, McGue M (2010) Familial transmission and heritability of childhood disruptive disorders. Am J Psychiatry 167:1066–1074. https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.ajp.2010.09091272
Ehrensaft MK, Wasserman GA, Verdelli L, Greenwald S, Miller LS, Davies M (2003) Maternal antisocial behavior, parenting practices, and behavior problems in boys at risk for antisocial behavior. J Child Fam Stud 12:27–40. https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1021302024583
Laurens KR, Tzoumakis S, Kariuki M, Green MJ, Hamde M, Harris F, Dean K et al (2017) Pervasive influence of maternal and paternal criminal offending on early childhood development: a population data linkage study. Psychol Med 47:889–901. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0033291716003007
Bell MF, Bayliss DM, Glauert R, Ohan JL (2018) Using linked data to investigate developmental vulnerabilities in children of convicted parents. Dev Psychol 54:1219–1231
Herndon RW, Iacono WG (2005) Psychiatric disorder in the children of antisocial parents. Psychol Med 35:1815–1824. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0033291705005635
Jaffee SR, Moffitt TE, Caspi A, Taylor A (2003) Life with (or without) father: the benefits of living with two biological parents depend on the father’s antisocial behavior. Child Dev 74:109–126. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-8624.t01-1-00524
Kim H, Capaldi DM, Pears KC, Kerr DCR, Owen LD (2009) Intergenerational transmission of internalizing and externalizing behaviours across three generations; gender-specific pathways. Crim Behav Mental Health 19:125–141. https://doi.org/10.1002/cbm.708
Meurs I, Reef J, Verhulst FC, Ende J (2009) Intergenerational transmission of child problem behaviors: a longitudinal, population-based study. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 48:138–145. https://doi.org/10.1097/CHI.0b013e318191770d
Petitclerc A, Boivin M, Dionne G, Zoccolillo M, Tremblay RE (2009) Disregard for rules: the early development and predictors of a specific dimension of disruptive behavior disorders. J Child Psychol Psychiatry 50:1477–1484. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-7610.2009.02118.x
Tremblay RE, Nagin DS, Séguin JR, Zoccolillo M, Zelazo PD, Boivin M, Japel C et al (2004) Physical aggression during early childhood: trajectories and predictors. Pediatrics 114:e43–e50. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.114.1.e43
Galéra C, Côté SM, Bouvard MP, Pingault J, Melchior M, Michel G, Tremblay RE et al (2011) Early risk factors for hyperactivity-impulsivity and inattention trajectories from age 17 months to 8 years. Arch Gen Psychiatry 68, 1267–1275. https://doi.org/10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2011.138
Coley RL, Carrano J, Lewin-Bizan S (2011) Unpacking links between fathers’ antisocial behaviors and children’s behavior problems: direct, indirect, and interactive effects. J Abnorm Child Psychol 39:791–804. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10802-011-9496-4
Lizotte AJ, Phillips MD, Krohn MD, Thornberry TP, Bushway SD, Schmidt NM (2015) Like parent like child? The role of delayed childrearing in breaking the link between parent’s offending and their children’s antisocial behavior. Justice Q 32:410–444. https://doi.org/10.1080/07418825.2013.771206
Besemer S (2014) The impact of timing and frequency of parental criminal behaviour and risk factors on offpsring offending. Psychol Crime Law 20:78–99. https://doi.org/10.1080/1068316X.2012.736512
Bandura A (1977) Self-efficacy: toward a unifying theory of behavioral change. Psychol Rev 84:191–215. https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-295X.84.2.191
Tzoumakis S, Dean K, Green MJ, Zheng C, Kariuki M, Harris F, Laurens KR et al (2017) The impact of parental offending on offspring aggression in early childhood: a population-based record linkage study. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 62:445–455. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00127-017-1347-3
Carr VJ, Harris F, Raudino A, Luo L, Kariuki M, Liu E, Green MJ et al (2017) New South Wales child development study (NSW-CDS): an Australian multiagency, multigenerational, longitudinal record linkage study. BMJ Open 6:e009023. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2015-009023
Green M, Harris F, Laurens K, Kariuki M, Tzoumakis S, Dean K, Carr V et al (2018) Cohort profile: the New South Wales child development study (NSW-CDS)—wave 2 (child age 13 years). Int J Epidemiol 6:e009023. https://doi.org/10.1093/ije/dyy115
Brinkman SA, Gialamas A, Rahman A, Mittinty MN, Gregory TA, Silburn S, Lynch JW et al (2012) Jurisdictional socioeconomic and gender inequalities in child health and development: analysis of a national census of 5-year-olds in Australia. BMJ Open 2:e001075. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2012-001075
Brinkman SA, Gregory TA, Goldfeld S, Lynch JW, Hardy M (2014) Data resource profile: the Australian Early Development Index (AEDI). Int J Epidemiol 43:1089–1096. https://doi.org/10.1093/ije/dyu085
Laurens KR, Tzoumakis S, Dean K, Brinkman SA, Bore M, Lenroot R, Green MJ et al (2017) The 2015 middle childhood survey (MCS) of mental health and well-being at age 11 years in an Australian population cohort. BMJ Open 7:e016244. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2017-016244
Janus M, Offord DR (2007) Development and psychometric properties of the early development instrument (EDI): a measure of children’s school readiness. Can J Behav Sci 39:1–22. https://doi.org/10.1037/cjbs2007001
Brinkman SA, Silburn S, Lawrence D, Goldfeld S, Sayers M, Oberklaid F (2007) Investigating the validity of the australian early development index. Early Educ Dev 18:427–451. https://doi.org/10.1080/10409280701610812
Janus M, Brinkman SA, Duku EK (2011) Validity and psychometric properties of the early development instrument in Canada, Australia, United States, and Jamaica. Soc Indic Res 103:283–297. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11205-011-9846-1
Goodman R (2001) Psychometric properties of the strengths and difficulties questionnaire. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 40:1337–1345. https://doi.org/10.1097/00004583-200111000-00015
Goodman R (1997) The strengths and difficulties questionnaire: a research note. J Child Psychol Psychiatry 38:581–586. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-7610.1997.tb01545.x
Goodman R, Meltzer H, Bailey V (2003) The strengths and difficulties questionnaire: a pilot study on the validity of the self-report version. Int Rev Psychiatry 15:173–177. https://doi.org/10.1080/0954026021000046137
Hawes DJ, Dadds MR (2004) Australian data and psychometric properties of the strength and difficulties questionnaire. Aust N Z J Psychiatry 38:644–651. https://doi.org/10.1080/j.1440-1614.2004.01427.x
Duku EK, Janus M, Brinkman S (2015) Investigation of the cross-national equivalence of a measurement of early child development. Child Indic Res 8:471–489. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12187-014-9249-3
Pink B (2013) Socio-economic indexes for areas (SEIFA) 2011. Technical paper (ed. Australian Bureau of Statistics). Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra
Fogel CI (1995) Pregnant prisoners: impact of incarceration on health and health care. J Correct Health Care 2:169–190. https://doi.org/10.1177/107834589500200205
Masho SW, Bishop DL, Keyser-Marcus L, Varner SB, White S, Svikis D (2013) Least explored factors associated with prenatal smoking. Matern Child Health J 17:1167–1174. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10995-012-1103-y
Linnet KM, Dalsgaard S, Obel C, Wisborg K, Henriksen TB, Rodriguez A, Jarvelin M et al (2003) Maternal lifestyle factors in pregnancy risk of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and associated behaviors: review of the current evidence. Am J Psychiatry 106:1028–1040. https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.ajp.160.6.1028
Williams JHG (2007) Consequences of prenatal toxin exposure for mental health in children and adolescents. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry 16:243–253. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00787-006-0596-6
Beijers. R, Buitelaar JK, de Weerth C (2014) Mechanisms underlying the effects of prenatal psychosocial stress on child outcomes: beyond the HPA axis. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry 23:943–956. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00787-014-0566-3
Tzoumakis S, Carr VJ, Dean K, Laurens KR, Kariuki M, Harris F, Green MJ (2018) Prenatal maternal smoking, maternal offending, and offspring behavioural and cognitive outcomes in early childhood. Crim Behav Ment Health 28:397–408. https://doi.org/10.1002/cbm.2089
Van de Rakt M, Nieuwbeerta P, De Graaf ND (2008) Like father, like son: the relationships between conviction trajectories of fathers and their sons and daughters. Br J Criminol 48:538–556. https://doi.org/10.1093/bjc/azn014
D’Onofrio BM, Slutske WS, Turkheimer E, Emery RE, Harden P, Martin NG et al (2007) Intergenerational transmission of childhood conduct problems: a children of twins study. Arch Gen Psychiatry 64:820–829. https://doi.org/10.1001/archpsyc.64.7.820
Rhule DM, McMahon RJ, Spieker SJ (2004) Relation of adolescent mothers’ history of antisocial behavior to child conduct problems and social competence. J Clin Child Adolesc Psychol 33:524–535. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15374424jccp3303_10
Salvatoer JE, Meyers JL, Yan J, Aliev F, Lansford JE, Dick DM et al (2015) Intergenerational continuity in parents’ and adolescents’ externalizing problems: The role of life events and their interaction with GABRA2. J Abnorm Psychol 124, 709–728. https://doi.org/10.1037/abn0000066
Carey G, Crammond B, Leeuw ED (2015) Towards health equity: a framework for the application of proportionate universalism. Int J Equity Health 14:81–90. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12939-015-0207-6
Sanders MR, Markie-Dadds CM, Tully LA, Bor W (2000) The triple P-positive parenting program: a comparison of enhanced, standard, and self-directed behavioral family intervention for parents of children with early onset conduct problems. J Consult Clin Psychol 68:624–640. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-006X.68.4.624
Olds DL (2006) The nurse-family partnership: an evidence-based preventive intervention. Infant Ment Health J 27:5–25. https://doi.org/10.1002/imhj.20077
Olds DL (2007) Preventing crime with prenatal and infancy support to parents: the nurse-family partnership. Victims Offenders 2:205–225. https://doi.org/10.1080/15564880701263569
Achenbach TM (2011) Commentary: definitely more than measurement error: but how should we understand and deal with informant discrepencies? J Clin Child Adolesc Psychol 41:80–86. https://doi.org/10.1080/15374416.2011.533416
Alexander LA, McKnight PE, Disabato DJ, Kashdan TB (2017) When and how to use multiple informants to improve clinical assessments. J Psychopathol Behav Assess 39:669–679. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10862-017-9607-9
This research was supported by the use of population data owned by the NSW Ministry of Health; NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages; and the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research. This paper uses data from the Australian Early Development Census (AEDC). The AEDC is funded by the Australian Government Department of Education and Training. The findings and views reported are those of the author and should not be attributed to these Departments or the NSW and Australian Government. The record linkage was conducted by the Centre for Health and Record Linkage. This research was conducted by the University of New South Wales with the financial support from the Australian Research Council (Linkage Project LP110100150, with the NSW Ministry of Health, NSW Department of Education, and the NSW Department of Family and Community Services representing the Linkage Project Partners; and Discovery Project DP170101403); the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC Project Grants APP1058652 and APP1048055 and NHMRC Partnership Project 1138683); and the Australian Rotary Health (Mental Health of Young Australians Research Grants 104090 and 162302). KRL was supported by an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship (FT170100294).
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
Electronic supplementary material
Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.
About this article
Cite this article
Whitten, T., Laurens, K.R., Tzoumakis, S. et al. The influence of parental offending on the continuity and discontinuity of children’s internalizing and externalizing difficulties from early to middle childhood. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 54, 965–975 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00127-019-01670-5
- Conduct problems
- Emotional symptoms
- Parental offending
- Child development
- Record linkage