Parental Criminality, Family Violence and Intergenerational Transmission of Crime Within a Birth Cohort

  • Marianne JungerEmail author
  • Jack GreeneEmail author
  • Ruth Schipper
  • Floreyne Hesper
  • Veronique Estourgie


Previous studies documented that crime is heavily concentrated in families. However, many studies relied on relatively small samples, often males and information on criminal involvement was self-reported. The present study investigates: (1) the prevalence of arrests in three generations; (2) the concentration of offenders and arrests within families; (3) the relationships between arrests among the relatives; (4) the relationship between arrests and family violence. A complete cohort of the families in which a child was born in a Dutch city was selected, and the arrests of all known family members (siblings, parents and grandparents) were investigated. Results showed that 7.2 % of the mothers and 18 % of the fathers had been arrested. The likelihood of parental arrests was related to the likelihood of grandparental arrests. There was clear evidence for assortative mating: when the mother was arrested, the likelihood that the father was arrested was increased with a factor five. Maternal arrests were also related to arrests of her parents-in-law. Arrests are heavily concentrated within families, 7.8 % of the families account for 52.3 % of the suspects. Arrests in family members constitute a major risk factor for poor developmental outcomes, such as criminal behavior. At the time of birth, it is possible to use information on arrests to select children who are at relatively high risk for the target of prevention efforts.Implications for prevention policies are discussed.


Criminal risk Crime prevention Family violence Intergenerational transmission Police contact Risk assessment 



The authors are grateful to the police force of Gelderland-Zuid for their help with the data collection. They also wish to thank dr. Hans H. L. Hendrickx for his critical reviews of previous versions. Part of this work was done while Marianne Junger worked at the Department of Developmental Psychology of Utrecht University and Floreyne Hepser worked at the police Force Gelderland-Zuid.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Governance StudiesUniversity of TwenteEnschedeThe Netherlands
  2. 2.School of Criminology and Criminal JusticeNortheastern UniversityBostonUSA
  3. 3.HSK groepZwolleThe Netherlands
  4. 4.NijmegenThe Netherlands
  5. 5.Police Force Gelderland-ZuidNijmegenThe Netherlands
  6. 6.Industrial Engineering and Business Information SystemsSchool of Management and Governance, University of TwenteEnschedeThe Netherlands

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