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Chapter 2

PSYC39H3 Chapter Notes - Chapter 2: Child Abuse, Protective Factor, Emotion Recognition

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David Nussbaum

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Chapter 2 Origins of Criminal Behaviour: Developmental Risk Factors
Each person follows a developmental pathway
Developmental pathway: in the study of criminal behaviour, these are the various tracks individuals
follow that lead to antisocial behaviour
Researchers began by identifying two pathways but have now found evidence of more
Some risk factors can be described as experiences that are common in the background of many repeat
offenders, such as school failure, abuse of alcohol, antisocial peers, or childhood victimization
Some experts believe that the more risks a person is exposed to, the greater is the probability that
person will participate in antisocial behaviour throughout his or her lifetime
Some children display antisocial behaviour early; others wait until adolescence
For some children, there is no offending at all
The risk factors we are most concerned with in this chapter are the social, family, and psychological
experiences that are believed to increase the probability that an individual will engage in persistent
criminal behaviour
Examples of social risk factors are poverty and limited resources, antisocial peers, peer rejection, and
preschool or school experiences
Parental and family risk factors include faulty or inadequate parenting, sibling influences, and child
maltreatment or abuse
Examples of psychological risk factors are inadequate cognitive and language ability, lack of empathy,
poor interpersonal and social skills, and behavioural disorders
As noted by Terrie Moffitt (2005a), we know that certain risk factors are closely linked to delinquency
and criminal behaviour, but how or why they are linked is largely unknown
We must be careful not to imply that all criminal behaviour has its origins in childhood, however
It should be emphasized though, that it is unlikely that any single risk factor, by itself, causes antisocial,
aggressive, or violent behaviour
This leads us to a discussion of two main models used to explain how risk factors might operate
Cumulative Risk Model (Multiple Risk Model)
Exposure to multiple risk factors is most likely to increase to probability that a child, adolescent, or adult
develops antisocial behaviour and other maladaptive behaviours
So, not so much poverty alone, but poverty along with the other risk factors that come along with it,
such as substandard housing and education, exposure to chemical toxins, violence, parental
substance abuse, divorce
Cumulative risk model: model that states that an accumulation of risk factors, rather than any one
factor, leads to criminal or antisocial behaviour
The factors may be biological, social, or psychological, but the more there are, the more likely an
individual will act antisocially
The CR model predicts that the greater the number of risks experienced by a child or adolescent, the
greater the prevalence of mental health, cognitive deficits, and behavioural problems they may have
It is the number of different risk factors experienced that is important
Protective factors can dampen the effect of risk factors
Developmental Cascade Model (Developmental Cascade Model)
Developmental cascade model: model that sees antisocial or criminal behaviour being the result of
multiple risks along the life path, interacting with one another rather than simply added to one another
Kenneth Dodge et al. (2008) and Ann Masten (2006, 2014)
Could be considered a form of CR model because it refers to multiple risks, but it is distinct in that it
emphasizes the interaction among risk factors and their effect on outcomes over the course of
The person’s developmental skills or deficits enhance, affect, or determine the next skill or deficit along
a life-course trajectory
“Snowballing” describes the cascading effect

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The cascade and the cumulative models both argue that early negative experiences can alter a child’s
developmental trajectory and interfere with accomplishment of normal developmental milestones, such
as the formation of peer relationships, interpersonal skills, academic achievement, and cognitive
However, the developmental cascade model also focuses heavily on the development and
enhancement of positive cascades
CR model
Starts with children who are born into a family where parents are absent or uncaring or may lack
parenting skills
Harsh and inconsistent parental disciplinary strategies have a high risk of preventing the child from
acquiring social and cognitive skills that are necessary for school social and academic success
These skill deficits include vocabulary deficits, poor social problem solving, hostile attributional
biases, and emotion recognition deficits
Note that the above can occur regardless of the parents’ economic situation
Lacking the necessary social and academic skills to achieve during the early school years, the child
begins to show conduct problems soon after entry into school
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