Heterogeneity of causes for delinquency and criminality: Lifespan perspectives

Lisabeth Fisher Dilalla, Irving I. Gottesman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

113 Scopus citations


This review of family, twin, and adoption studies on offender behaviors points to the importance of a genetic predisposition as a partial explanation for criminality in some populations. Twin and adoption studies show that criminality increases with the presence of criminality in biological relatives; the environmental effects of having a criminal adoptive parent also increase the risk of adoptee criminality. Delinquency is described developmentally as a fairly typical phase for many adolescents. Because of the high base rate for delinquency, any genetic predisposition for offense behaviors may be difficult to uncover in adolescence. Three groups are differentiated that may aid in this detection: continuous antisocials are delinquents who continue to be criminal as adults; transitory delinquents are delinquents but not criminals; and late bloomers are criminals but not delinquents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)339-349
Number of pages11
JournalDevelopment and psychopathology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1989

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Heterogeneity of causes for delinquency and criminality: Lifespan perspectives'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this