The influence of gender, low birth weight, and disadvantaged environment in predicting early onset of offending: A test of moffitt's interactional hypothesis

Stephen G. Tibbetts, Alex R. Piquero

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Abstract

Little is known about the causes of an early onset of offending. In an attempt to shed light on this issue, some theoretical models have been advanced purporting to explain the reasons for an individual's early initiation into offending. In one of these models, Moffitt (1993) predicts that early onset of offending is caused by an interaction between (1) increased risk for neuropsychological disorders and (2) disadvantaged childhood environments. This study tests Moffitt's hypothesis concerning the development of early offending. In the present analysis, low birth weight was used as a proxy for increased likelihood of neuropsychological deficits, and socioeconomic status and family structure served as indicators for disadvantaged environment. Using the Philadelphia portion of the Collaborative Perinatal Project, we find support for Moffitt's hypothesis that neuropsychological risk and disadvantaged environment interact to produce an early, but not late, onset of offending. In subsequent analysis, the interaction was observed for males but not females. The latter result, however, may be a function of the small number of cases in the female sample. Finally, we address the theoretical and policy implications arising from our analyses and provide some suggestions for future research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)843-877
Number of pages35
JournalCriminology
Volume37
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 1999

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