Criminal behavior: Older siblings strongly sway younger siblings close in age

April 28, 2014 by Sathya Achia Abraham

If a sibling commits a violent criminal act, the risk that a younger sibling may follow in their footsteps is more likely than the transmission of that behavior to an older sibling, according to a new study conducted by researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University and Lund University in Sweden.

The findings provide insight into the social transmission of violent behaviors and suggest that within families can be important when it comes to . Down the road, the results may be used to inform strategies for prevention and treatment programs.

For some time, experts have recognized that violent criminal behavior runs strongly in families due to shared environmental factors such as poverty, divorce and poor parental supervision.

In a study, published online April 28 in the journal Psychological Medicine, researchers examined a series of national databases from Sweden linking full sibling pairs and criminal conviction. The team conducted two analyses – one that looked at age differences in , and one that examined the difference in the risk of being a younger sibling versus an older sibling of a proband with violent criminal behavior.

Researchers found that older siblings more strongly "transmit" the risk for violent criminal behavior to their , rather than vice versa. The team also found that the closer in age that siblings are, the greater the risk for the transmission of . The authors write, "Because older siblings often exert more influence on siblings than younger, the risk for violent criminal behavior should be greater when the older sibling has violent criminal behavior as compared to the younger sibling. However it is not just mere closeness in age, but rather the nature of the sibling relationship that often occurs when siblings are closer in age."

"Our findings strongly support the importance of familial-environmental influences on violent and provide some insight into the possible mechanisms at work," said first author Kenneth S. Kendler, M.D., director of the VCU Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics.

Explore further: Stroke risk considerably higher if sibling had stroke

Related Stories

Stroke risk considerably higher if sibling had stroke

April 10, 2012

If your brother or sister had a stroke, you may be at least 60 percent more likely to have one too, according to research reported in the American Heart Association journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Genetics.

Sibling bullying: What's the big deal?

September 23, 2013

Sibling bullying is a type of violence that is prevalent in the lives of most children, but little is known about it, researchers say.

Recommended for you

Serious research into what makes us laugh

November 24, 2015

More complex jokes tend to be funnier but only up to a point, Oxford researchers have found. Jokes that are too complicated tend to lose the audience.

Psychologists dispute continuum theory of sexual orientation

November 19, 2015

Washington State University researchers have established a categorical distinction between people who are heterosexual and those who are not. By analyzing the reported sexual behavior, identity and attraction of more than ...

Babies have logical reasoning before age one, study finds

November 18, 2015

Human infants are capable of deductive problem solving as early as 10 months of age, a new study by psychologists at Emory University and Bucknell finds. The journal Developmental Science is publishing the research, showing ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.