Criminal behavior: Older siblings strongly sway younger siblings close in age | VCU Across the Spectrum


Findings illustrate impact of family environment on violent criminal behavior

If a sibling commits a violent criminal act, the risk that a younger sibling may follow in their footsteps is more likely than the transmission of that behavior to an older sibling, according to a new study conducted by researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University and Lund University in Sweden.

The findings provide insight into the social transmission of violent behaviors and suggest that environmental factors within families can be important when it comes to delinquent behavior. Down the road, the results may be used to inform strategies for prevention and treatment programs.

For some time, experts have recognized that violent criminal behavior runs strongly in families due to shared environmental factors such as poverty, divorce and poor parental supervision.

In a study, published online April 28 in the journal Psychological Medicine, researchers examined a series of national databases from Sweden linking full sibling pairs and criminal conviction. The team conducted two analyses – one that looked at age differences in siblings, and one that examined the difference in the risk of being a younger sibling versus an older sibling of a proband with violent criminal behavior.

Researchers found that older siblings more strongly “transmit” the risk for violent criminal behavior to their younger siblings, rather than vice versa. The team also found that the closer in age that siblings are, the greater the risk for the transmission of violent behavior. The authors write, “Because older siblings often exert more influence on siblings than younger, the risk for violent criminal behavior should be greater when the older sibling has violent criminal behavior as compared to the younger sibling. However it is not just mere closeness in age, but rather the nature of the sibling relationship that often occurs when siblings are closer in age.”

“Our findings strongly support the importance of familial-environmental influences on violent criminal behavior and provide some insight into the possible mechanisms at work,” said first author Kenneth S. Kendler, M.D., director of the VCU Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics.

Kendler, professor of psychiatry, and human and molecular genetics in the VCU School of Medicine, collaborated with Nancy A. Morris, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Criminal Justice in the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs, VCU College of Humanities and Sciences. Researchers from Lund University were led by Jan Sundquist, M.D., Ph.D., professor and director of the Center for Primary Health Care Research, and Kristina Sundquist, M.D., Ph.D., professor of family medicine at the Center for Primary Health Care Research, and Sara Larsson Lönn, Ph.D., with the Center for Primary Health Care Research. Sundquist and Sundquist also have affiliations with the Stanford Prevention Research Center at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

This work was supported by the Ellison Medical Foundation, the Swedish Research Council (K2012-70X-15428-08-3), the Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare (In Swedish: Forte; 2013-1836), the Swedish Research Council (2012-2378) as well as ALF funding from Region Skåne.


Read the full paper, “Environmental transmission of violent criminal behavior in siblings: a Swedish national study” free here for a limited time


via Criminal behavior: Older siblings strongly sway younger siblings close in age | VCU Across the Spectrum.




One Response to Criminal behavior: Older siblings strongly sway younger siblings close in age | VCU Across the Spectrum

  1. Rosemary Jones says:

    And it’s the same with the Bandura Effect – children observing adults fighting are more likely to be violent themselves. It’s called observational learning. But our judgement also goes awry when we don’t have enough oxygen reaching our brains, or when our brains don’t function properly because of previous overloading from too much grief, anger or street drugs and probably alcohol without the necessary chemicals to sustain the additional neural transmission, which is one reason we need a complete overhaul of the mental ill health labeling system, which presently defines everyone with increased dopamine production due to stress, and therefore liable to experience cognition – commonly described as psychotic and therefore needing dopamine antagonists, commonly known as anti psychotics.

    The other reason being the horrific Hitchcock connotations which cause patients to kill themselves.

    The new labeling could either be a blanket term – hyperdopamism, which has no more bad connotations than hyperthyroidism, with sub categories defining the different stresses attached, or the different categories themselves, which goes like this:-

    1. cranial arterial dysfunction syndrome – due to blocked or partially blocked arteries.

    2. cognitive overload syndrome – due to too much experience of grief, anger and street drugs without enough of the back up compounds necessary for neural transmission.

    3. cerebral inflammation syndrome, which may block that transmission.

    4. cerebral accident damage syndrome, which may also block that transmission.

    Dopamine antagonist medications – the antipsychotics, work for all these conditions because all the conditions create enough stress to trigger excess dopamine production. Such excess favours the continuance of basic functions but plays havoc with the more recently evolved cognition areas of the brain.

    By calling each condition what it is rather than by a name which has no causal integrity and rather causes a lot of grief, it is more likely that patients will be refered to the appropriate clinicians and not be restricted to psychiatric wards where, even if the causes of their conditions are indentified, too often nothing is done to alleviate them.

    Policy makers please note that the present policy of maintaining patients in a state of ill health for life proves to be very uncomfortable, often life threatening and very expensive on the NHS and the State.

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