Journal of Population Economics

, Volume 30, Issue 4, pp 1035–1067 | Cite as

The effect of child maltreatment on illegal and problematic behaviour: new evidence on the ‘cycle of violence’ using twins data

  • Violeta MishevaEmail author
  • Dinand Webbink
  • Nicholas G. Martin
Original Paper


This paper investigates the effect of physical and sexual child maltreatment on several types of illegal and problematic behaviour. By using variation within pairs of twins, we are able to mitigate concerns about confounding factors from previous studies. Using ordinary least squares and twin fixed effects estimation approaches, we find that child maltreatment has a large effect on illegal and problematic behaviours such as drug abuse, conduct disorders, and crime. The estimated effects suggest an increase of illegal and problematic behaviour between 50 and 100%. Our findings are consistent with the so-called cycle of violence hypothesis.


Child maltreatment Problematic behaviour Crime 

JEL Classification

I1 I2 K42 



We are very grateful for the valuable comments and suggestions made by the anonymous referees. We highly appreciate their help and guidance. The manuscript has also benefited from comments of attendees of the PhD and brown bag seminar series at the Erasmus School of Economics, of the 10th Augustin Cournot PhD conference, and the 25th EALE conference.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Violeta Misheva
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Dinand Webbink
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Nicholas G. Martin
    • 4
  1. 1.Erasmus School of EconomicsRotterdamNetherlands
  2. 2.Tinbergen InstituteAmsterdamNetherlands
  3. 3.IZABonnGermany
  4. 4.Queensland Institute of Medical ResearchBrisbaneAustralia

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