Gender Differences in Risk Factors for Offending: Implications for Risk-Focused Prevention

Kate A. Painter, Cambridge University
David P. Farrington, University of Cambridge

This research compares childhood risk factors for convictions of 494 brothers and 519 sisters of the London males followed up in the Cambridge Study in Delinquent Development, which is a prospective longitudinal survey of the develpment of offending. Socio-economic risk factors such as low family income, poor housing and large family size predicted convictions more strongly for sisters than for brothers. Similarly, child-rearing risk factors such as poor parental supervision, harsh or erraic parental discipline, parental conflict and low praise by the parents were stronger predictors for sisters. However, convicted fathers and mothers were equally important predictors for brothers and sisters. The fact that convicted sisters were a more extreme fraction of the cohort than convicted brothers accounted for part of the gender difference in predictive accuracy, but not for all of it. It may be that the strength of causal influence of family risk factors on offending is greater for females and that risk assessment using family risk factors is more accurate for females. Also, intervention techniques targeting family risk factors may have proportionally more impact on female offending.

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Updated 05/20/2006