Bringing Back the Children: An Examination of Prenatal Factors on Life-Course Offending

Lisa M. McCartan, University of Cincinnati
John P. Wright, University of Cincinnati

Moffitt argues that certain prenatal risk factors, such as maternal drug use, may increase the probability of a child developing neuropsychological deficits. In turn, these deficits may establish a child on a pathway towards delinquency. Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY), we test Moffitt's hypotheses that link prenatal risk factors to later life outcomes, including serious crime. With appropriate controls for environmental influences and time-stable individual differences, we examine the effect of prenatal risk factors on early behavioral problems and subsequent misbehavior. Findings from hierarchical linear analyses show that 1) prenatal risk factors strongly predict variation in early problem behavior; 2) that early behavioral problems are predictive of later delinquency and; 3) that early neuropsychological deficits predict persistent, serious delinquency later in life.

(Return to Program Resources)

Updated 05/20/2006