A little early risk goes a long bad way: Adverse childhood experiences and life-course offending in the Cambridge study

Jessica M. Craig, Alex R. Piquero, David P. Farrington, Maria M. Ttofi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose While Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) have been found to predict an increased prevalence and seriousness of offending, these findings are based on a sample from one U.S. state. To increase the generalizability of these findings, the impact of ACEs was investigated using a geographically-distinct sample. The current study also sought to identify potential protective factors that may buffer the impact of ACEs on offending. Methods Using the Cambridge Study in Delinquent Development, the prevalence and impact of ACEs on offending through age 56 were investigated. In order to identify protective factors, a large set of early childhood measures were examined to assess the degree to which they decreased offending among those with ACEs. Results Similar to prior studies, ACEs were found to increase the likelihood of offending throughout the life course. Across two operationalizations of risk, a number of protective factors were identified including low troublesomeness, low daring, and low hyperactivity. Conclusions Though prior research has focused on identifying offending risk factors, equally important is the identification of protective factors. This comprehensive approach allows interventions to strengthen these factors in order to buffer the deleterious impact of ACEs on offending.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)34-45
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Criminal Justice
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Adverse childhood experiences
  • Life course criminology
  • Offending
  • Protective factors

Cite this