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Pathways From Childhood Conduct Problems to Adult Criminality

Tiffany L. Panko
Rochester Institute of Technology

This paper focuses on childhood conduct disorder, attention deficit disorder with or without hyperactivity and antisocial personality and how they act as factors in predicting a child's future criminal activity. An overview on the disorders is provided, looking into their characteristics, causality, and relationship to crime to provide a complete understanding of the diagnoses. The difference between young girls and boys and their criminal behavior is also recorded. Different studies are incorporated to display evidence whether or not a child's disorders are prone to development of adult criminality.

Children with childhood or adolescence onset of conduct disorder, attention deficit disorder with or without hyperactivity (ADHD), and/or antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) are more predisposed to a life of criminal activity. These disorders are often co-morbid, which means they affect the occurrence of one or the other, and in the instances where a child has more than one disorder, the higher his inclination for adult criminality will be. Males are more influenced by these disorders than females. Females usually learn to channel their behavioral problems or develop psychological problems or disorders. In some cases, this means that these women will become criminals. However, this does not mean that every child who is diagnosed with one or more of the disorders mentioned will be a criminal, but the rate of occurrence is significantly high. Around half or more of these children will commit serious criminal activities and develop arrest records.

Conduct Disorder

Children with conduct disorder often are also diagnosed with another disorder because the traits of aggression or behavior for each may overlap. Characteristics of children of this type include but are not limited to bullying, assaults, physical fights, cruelty to animals, arson, shoplifting, and disobedience. Individuals diagnosed with conduct disorder exhibit neuropsychological deficits. These deficits affect verbal comprehension skills and IQ levels (Moffitt, 1993b). These verbal skill deficits include impaired social judgment, weak language processing, and poor auditory memory (Moffitt, 1994). Conduct disorder often develops into antisocial personality disorder, so it's not surprising that antisocial persons share the same verbal skill deficits. The deficit in verbal understanding may well be cause for what seems to be impulsivity because the children are more likely to act on their own will when they do not understand what is going on. Delinquent children are shown to consistently score lower on IQ tests than children who are not delinquent.

Attention Deficit Disorders With or Without Hyperactivity

Minimal brain dysfunctions, or abnormal cerebral structures, affect people so that they may experience periods of explosive rage that can lead to violent episodes, and thus violent crimes. These dysfunctions of the brain are typically diagnosed as attention deficit disorders with or without hyperactivity (ADHD), which is another suspected cause of antisocial behavior. In a meta-analysis report by Pratt, Cullen, Blevins, Daigle and Unnever (2002) it was written that levels of ADHD among offenders in the criminal justice system is very common. More than a quarter of adult inmates have been diagnosed with ADHD (Foley, Carlton & Howell, 1996), and 50 to 80 percent of prisoners exhibit a significant number of ADHD symptoms (Richardson, 2000). Furthermore, ADHD is associated with a variety of conditions that are risk factors for offending, including neuropsychological deficits, poor academic and cognitive skills, truancy, psychological problems, and defiance and aggression.

Characteristic Traits of ADHD

The three main signs of ADHD, is when a child has problems paying attention, is very active, which is called hyperactivity, or acts before thinking, which is impulsivity. These children have difficulties sitting still, controlling behavior, and paying attention. There are three different classifications of ADHD as established by the American Psychological Association (APA) in 1994. The first one is the predominantly inattentive type. These children exhibit difficulties with focusing on or following through with school work, organization, paying attention and keeping track of their things (American Psychological Association, 2000). The second classification is the hyperactive-inattentive type. Traits for a child with this diagnosis include the tendency to fidget and squirm, have trouble playing quietly, talk too much, staying still, and waiting for their turn to speak in a group (APA, 2000). The third type is combined, where they exhibit traits from both categories. All children may be inattentive, overly active, or impulsive but these children persistently act this way.

Biological and Environmental Influences

Evidence shows that 80 percent of variations of ADHD traits are passed down genetically. This is known to be true because the disorder has been passed down only between parent and child, but not to an adopted child (Pratt et al., 2002). In addition to this genetic influence, environment makes a difference in shaping a child's young mind. In their infancy, their environment consists almost entirely of their parents. Children tend to grow up with similar traits to their parents because at a young age they imitate their parent's behavior. Some parents may lack the psychological or physical skill to cope and deal with a difficult child, so they respond negatively and impulsively (Pratt et al., 2002). Even if the behavior is inappropriate, the child will learn to think it is.

In addition to ADHD being a trait that could either be developed in childhood or inherited from one parent or another, antisocial personality is seen shared among children and their parents. About two-thirds of delinquent boys have fathers with a criminal record. Europe has conducted studies that clearly showed that if a biological father is a criminal, it is very likely the son will be too (Siegel, & Senna, 2004). Not only is there a biological influence, but also an environmental one, because young boys look up to their fathers and want to become like them. They see their fathers' antisocial behavior as normal and as a desirable trait to have. To further back this idea, Ghodsian-Carpey and Baker (1987) performed studies on twins four and seven years old. They used mother ratings and observation checklists looking for characteristics such as rejection, teasing, insulting, verbal threats or yelling, and disobedience. They collected moderate to high scores to show a heritable influence on aggression in twins. The more specific a study is regarding its parental and self reports the more likely a higher twin correlation with heredity and aggression appears. On a side note, studies in adult male twins show insignificant rates of aggression (Rushton, Fulker, Neale, Nias, & Eysenck, 1986) and this study shows that not every child who has a behavioral disorder in their youth will continue displaying these traits into adulthood. Some boys learn to cope or adjust to socially acceptable ways.

The sooner ADHD is detected in a child, the more effective treatment will be in reducing these traits. Medicine (such as Ritalin) and behavioral therapy can help diminish negative traits of ADHD personality. ADHD is treated most often as a risk factor for antisocial/delinquent behavior, which in turn is an important risk factor for crime and delinquency. A plausible explanation for this may be that a trait of ADHD is the inability to control their behavior.

Antisocial Personality Disorder

Characteristic Traits of ASPD

The main characteristic of an individual with antisocial personality disorder is that they have complete disregard of the rights of others and the rules of society. They seldom feel anxiety and do not feel guilt for their wrong-doings. They are also manipulative, irresponsible, and apathetic to others. Treatment for adults with this disorder is ineffective. The best thing to do is to catch it early on when they are children and the disorder is in its juvenile condition, known as conduct disorder. Individuals with ASPD also are impulsive and forget to plan ahead. This factor accounts for why ADHD may be diagnosed along with ASPD. Criminals share these traits so it is no wonder that adult psychopathic criminals, who usually are killers, display a severe form of antisocial behavior (Johansson, 2005).

Causes for ASPD

Most children could be considered "late starters" in that they engage in average levels of aggressive behavior in the early childhood years but proceed to more serious antisocial behavior in adolescence and adulthood (Schaeffer, 2003). Children are sensation seekers. This refers to individual preferences for varied sensations and experiences and the child's willingness to take physical and social risks to obtain that feeling out of the experiences. They are more likely to engage in risky behaviors to seek or enhance pleasure. All risk behaviors have short-term gains and potential long-term costs. Sensation seekers are more influenced to short-term benefits of the choices they make and the rewards that come out of them. Punishments or consideration of long term consequences is not a factor to these high sensation seekers (Cooper, 2003). This is true because of negative affect. Children who encounter negative experiences are encouraged to escape and seek for their preferable sensation, which makes short-term relief more attractive in spite of long-term consequences. These high sensation seeking children often are seen to have aggressive, conduct, or behavioral disorders because their actions are seen as inappropriate to the community.

Course of Development and Persistence

Moffitt (1993) stated that manifestations of antisocial behavior emerge very early in the life course and remain present thereafter, suggesting that childhood behaviors are links to adult criminality. Adolescent delinquency is merely an expositional stage in a continuous lifelong antisocial course. Factors in early childhood can usually explain the continuity of criminal or risky behaviors throughout an individual's troubled life. In some cases, individuals may be able to find ways to cope with their tendencies or adjust to their lifestyles or make significant changes. These changes mean that criminal offending almost completely or completely ceases by midlife. However, this does not mean that these individuals miraculously obtain pro-social tendencies after being antisocial for most of their lives. There are fewer arrests of psychopathic criminals at about age 40, but their antisocial personality traits persist in males until at least age 69.

Studies of male criminal careers show that they are least likely to start committing criminal activities after adolescence. Children with the highest likelihood to turn into adults with ASPD will establish a pattern by late adolescence (Moffitt, 1993a). For the children who don't establish this antisocial pattern by late adolescence, their disorder is considered adolescence-limited. In contrast with the life-course-persistent type, they lack consistency in their antisocial behavior across situations. For instance, they may follow school rules but abandon conventional standards outside of the school where they shoplift and use drugs with friends. For adolescence-limited youths there usually is a gradual decline in the momentum of their antisocial behavior, but many will fall prey to the same snares that maintain life-course behavior. Consequences of delinquency, which may include a drug habit, an incarceration, interrupted education, or a teen pregnancy, are snares that may keep an individual in a delinquent lifestyle.

Relation Between Childhood Disorders and Adult Criminality

Pajer (1998) established that the relationship between delinquent behavior among boys and criminal behavior among men is an excellent example of what developmental psychopathologists call "homotypic continuity." This accounts for a strong correlation between a disorder at one point in time and the same symptoms in the same or a similar disorder at a further point in time. Soderstrom (2004) tested psychiatric factors for associations with violent recidivism or relapse and lifetime history of aggression (LHA). Conduct disorder, ADHD, and ASPD were all associated with violent recidivism, where the individuals would have to readmit themselves to their psychologist or psychiatrist. This proves that once an individual is diagnosed with one or more of these behavioral disorders, it is very likely that they will continue to have it for most of their lives. Individuals who have both hyperactivity-impulsivity and conduct problems are the adults who will have a higher percentage of arrests later in life (Babinski, Hartsough, and Lambert, 1999). Personality models correlated with high LHA scores were paranoid personality disorder, schizotypal personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, and antisocial personality disorder. This shows that the majority of emotional or behavioral disorders have a strong relationship to aggression. In the overlap between childhood and adult onset disorders, co-morbid were seen between conduct disorder and bipolar disorder, and/or substance abuse, and/or anxiety disorders (Soderstrom, 2004). Hyperactivity and conduct disorder behavioral scores were highly correlated with crime and aggression.

Girls Can Become Criminals, Too

Early hyperactivity-impulsivity and conduct problems predict the possibility of criminal activity in males, but not for females (Babinski et al., 1999). This seems to be because there are a small number of women committed crimes but the existence of early conduct problems did, in fact, display a relationship to official arrests. There may be a small number of females diagnosed with a disorder to use in a study, so it does not seem scientifically significant, but it does not always mean the predictability for women to become criminals is low. However, it is unlikely. Females, but not males, with a history of childhood conduct problems are at risk for developing adult internalizing disorders (Kratzer, & Hodgins, 1997). Internalizing disorders include withdrawal, shyness, depression, and phobias. Boys who are delinquent in adolescence are usually delinquent in adulthood. Women, however, who became delinquent in adulthood displayed emotional disorders or dysphoric mood in adolescence. Dysphoric is a psychological term to describe an emotional state characterized by anxiety, depression, or unease. Females are also more prone to develop psychological problems. Criminal activity is more of an externalizing disorder, which includes traits such as noncompliance, aggressiveness, and disruptive behaviors. Psychological problems that these women develop instead are more internal, which mean that they are not likely to act out against other human beings. Most of the time, they turn in to themselves.

Pajer (1998) concluded, from four prospective studies, that girls with conduct disorders had reported adult crime rates ranging from 33% to 50%. The crime rate in adulthood for delinquent girls ranged from was inconsistent in that it varied across a wide range of percentages. Adult crime rates were higher in all groups of antisocial girls than in any group of either normal control subjects or girls with other psychiatric problems. Like males, girls with more than one disorder diagnosed had the highest rates of adult criminality in two of three studies. Depressed girls with conduct disorder shared a high rate of adult criminality as well (Pajer, 1998). Also, another study showed that delinquent girls with more than one psychiatric diagnosis had adult symptoms already developed, but that none of the girls who were only delinquent developed psychiatric problems. This finding means that girls with only one disorder are more likely to grow out of it, learn to cope, or develop internalizing problems. The girls with more than one disorder or who exhibited both internalizing and externalizing disorders were likely to become adult criminals. Pajer (1998) concluded that a third of women in prison had been arrested before. He also concluded that significantly more than half of convicted female felons have histories of delinquency and conduct problems. This means that girls are more likely to become adult criminals only if they have started to establish a pattern in their youth. Most girls with conduct disorder grow up to develop adult psychological problems, while almost all normal girls do not.

A Different View

Although almost all studies support the idea that most children with conduct disorders in their youth will maintain antisocial characteristics in adulthood, some studies offer different results. Mannuzza (1998) stated that children with ADHD had conduct disorder when they were followed up. However, 50%-70% of children with ADHD do not have conduct disorder. Even though conduct disorder is usually a chronic disorder, the majority of children affected do not retain the disorder into adulthood. Therefore, it should not be surprising to find that most cases of childhood ADHD remit by adulthood.


Conduct disorders, attention deficit disorder with or without hyperactivity, and antisocial personality disorder are all common behavioral problems in problem children. The majority of young boys retain these traits throughout the course of their lives. These traits develop into adult criminality. Girls are more likely to develop internalizing disorders instead of turning to criminal activity.

Peer Commentary

Treating the Problem

John A. Aquilano
Rochester Institute of Technology

It was clearly established in Panko's paper that there is a link between childhood conduct problems and adult criminality; however, there is quite a bit of mystery as to how children could be treated for conduct disorder before they become predisposed toward criminality. Panko included in the paper that girls with conduct disorders and delinquency would eventually internalize those actions as they grew older, whereas men would externalize. Although I found that contention very interesting, I feel that the the process in which girls develop to internalize their aggression should be explored further. The benefits of treating children for conduct disorder should be explored as well as the processes involved with girls developing into women where they do not externalize their aggression in an antisocial manner as males do.

Childhood conduct disorder is one of the leading precursors of adult criminality (Waddell, Lipman, & Offord, 1999). As those children who have conduct disorder grow to be adults, there is a very high chance for them developing antisocial personality disorder. Given that conduct disorder in children is a solid precursor to criminality in adults, more emphasis should be placed on diagnosing and treating conduct disorder in children before it is allowed to develop into antisocial personality disorder. According to the DSM-IV, conduct disorder seems relatively simple to identify and diagnose even in young children, as their actions are quite extreme and hard to miss. Though the treatment of conduct disorder in children is difficult, treatment of antisocial personality disorder in adults is nearly impossible, as are the treatments of most sociopathic personality types (Frosch, 1983).

From Panko's paper I understand that girls with conduct problems are less likely to participate in criminal activity when they grow older as compared to boys. It was said that some girls tend to develop by internalizing problems rather than to outwardly committing criminal acts as males would. But it was not mentioned why or how women internalize their problems, and perhaps understanding why or how they do could help us better to understand how to prevent criminal activity in males. Exploring how and why girls tend to internalize may help us develop some kind of treatment for antisocial personality disorder which, as previously stated, has no very effective treatments at this time.

Panko did a good job of tying together previous research to establish a link between childhood conduct problems and adult criminality. The points I have mentioned could be used as a start to some original insight on how to solve this problem with our youth. Panko's paper does a good job of identifying a problem within our society. A logical next step would be treating the problem.

Peer Commentary

Overdiagnosis of ADHD in Children

Melissa A. Armer
Rochester Institute of Technology

Tiffany L. Panko wrote a thorough paper on "Pathways From Childhood Conduct Problems to Adult Criminality." In reading this paper, I question if some of the children diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in fact do not have ADHD. Could the convenience of medicine lead to criminal behavior that could have been prevented by dealing with behavior in other ways?

ADHD is defined in medical terms as a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that is more frequent and severe than is typically observed in individuals at a comparable level of development." This definition presents a problem, for almost every child could at one time be fit into this definition. It all depends on the opinion of the onlooker.

The most widely prescribed drug for ADHD is Ritalin (methylphenidate), a stimulant drug. Before the 1990s, candidates for ADHD were mostly boys aged 6 to 13. In the 1990s, candidates included both girls and boys aging as early as age 3 to adulthood. The Drug Enforcement Administration's records showed that between 1991 and 2000, annual production of methylphenidate rose by 740%. Over the past 20 years, American psychiatry has gone from the Freudian model of blaming the parents for all the problems to a biological model of mental illness, which blames the genes. "Politically correct" parenting would include effectively talking to children instead of punishment. When punishment is avoided, medication is an easy way out.

Children as young as 3 years old are being diagnosed with ADHD and being put on medications such as Ritalin. It has been shown that the best results come from the combination of behavioral therapy and medication. Is therapy necessary at the age of 3? Children go through phases, and at 3 years old a behavioral pattern is not fully developed and cannot be looked at for a diagnosis of ADHD. There are many side effects to the drugs prescribed for ADHD such as weight loss, headaches, upset stomach, vomiting, insomnia, nervousness, dizziness, drowsiness, and social withdrawal. One problem with prescribing these medications to young children is that they are not as able to accurately report side effects. These drugs can be highly addictive along with the dangerous side effects. Improper use of amphetamines can lead to heart problems, weight loss, psychotic episodes, increased blood pressure, and hair loss. The other concern is that children learn that a pill is the cure for all their problems. Diagnosing and prescribing medications for ADHD in a child should be a last resort but is too often a first choice.

As cultures are becoming more fast-paced with time pressures on parents, teachers, and children, the use of medications seems like a fast fix. Average class sizes are increasing and the demands of the classroom teacher are increasing. This leads to more teacher complaints of misbehaving children. The quick fix is to have a medical evaluation of the child. Medications take effect quickly as opposed to therapy or changing parenting methods to help the child's problems, which takes much time and effort. Many parents work a full-time job and do not have the time to spend with their children. Medication may be a fast fix, but if the underlying problems are not dealt with, the problems could get worse instead of better in the long run. This is important for the maturing process of a child. In addition to medication, behavioral management, better parenting skills, and classroom accommodations should be recommended. A diagnosis of ADHD should not be made just because a child is having problems in school. There needs to be a persistent pattern of behavioral problems that cannot be dealt with in any other way. Although Ritalin works, it is not an equivalent to better parenting or schools.

The problem with diagnosing ADHD is that there is no biological test for the disorder. Being inattentive, hyperactive, and impulsive in a way are the characteristics of being a kid. There is no clear line between typical and severe behavior--it is totally up to the doctor to decide. Economic, social, and cultural factors all need to be taken into account when diagnosing ADHD. Many other things such as domestic violence, alcoholism in the family, inadequate parenting, poor attachment to a caregiver, or a number of other medical conditions may cause behaviors that are common to ADHD. There are many factors that need to be taken into consideration when diagnosing young children. Although a lot of children in fact have ADHD, many of them are misdiagnosed. In regards to these children becoming criminals as adults, could it be that "normal" children misdiagnosed with ADHD become criminals because they are just thrown on medication and the underlying problem of their behavior is never dealt with?

Peer Commentary

Conduct Disorder Doesn't Just Develop on Its Own

Samantha L. Fitzgerald
Rochester Institute of Technology

The characteristics of conduct disorder are depicted within this paper, but what are the factors that actually cause it? Many children who have been diagnosed with conduct disorder typically experience some type of trauma or imbalance before actually developing these characteristics. As mentioned, children with conduct disorder display characteristics such has bullying, assaults, physical fights, cruelty to animals, arson, shoplifting, and disobedience. But one may wonder what makes a child become so outwardly violent and corrupt.

Researchers have come to the conclusion that many factors contribute to the development of conduct disorder. Most commonly, stressful family situations seem to be a link to conduct disorder. The death of a family member, divorce, and the remarriage of parents are stressful and confusing to children. During the time of divorce and remarriage, children typically think it is their fault the situation happened in the first place. Many begin to think of the things they could have done to make their parents remain together; however, children also think parents divorce because they do not love them anymore. During the years of 8 to 13 years of age, many children also mimic the characteristics of their parents. If they see their father or mother yelling, they think that this is acceptable behavior. When children do not understand the reasons for the situation, they desperately seek attention, even if it means acting out in an unacceptable manner. Children thus could begin shoplifting, bullying, being disobedient, and even starting physical fights at school just for the attention.

Other factors taken into consideration for the cause of conduct disorder are being biologically imbalanced and socially outcast within peer groups. Researchers have conducted many experiments trying to figure out if there is actually a biological or chemical imbalance within the brain that causes the characteristics of conduct disorder to develop. It has been shown that certain chemicals within the brain become imbalanced causing a decrease in decision-making and right/wrong perception. Certain types of medication have been prescribed to change the imbalance. A biological base, however, does not solely cause conduct disorder. If this disorder is not biologically based, then what else could cause it? In fact, peer groups are another link to the characteristics and diagnosis of conduct disorder.

During those childhood years of 8 to 13, children begin to bond with certain friends. When children find themselves not in a social group, they feel rejected, hurt, and angry. Social outcasts tend to reach out to other social outcasts who typically display the characteristics of social disobedience, criminal activity, and violence. Children and adolescents who do not have bonds with socially acceptable kids feel they must act out for attention. Criminal activity, violence, and other socially unacceptable behaviors make children feel somewhat accepted with the attention that they receive.

Adolescents diagnosed with conduct disorder are always psychologically and/or psychiatrically evaluated, because family trauma and being socially outcast seem to be the top factors in determining the cause of conduct disorder. By the time adolescents reach the age of 13 without treatment, treatment becomes unusable. Once this age hits, children think nothing is wrong with them and that the outside world simply does not understand them. This begins the stage change from conduct disorder to antisocial personality disorder.

Children who develop conduct disorder sometimes become frustrated at how they act and how they become socially different from everyone else. The factors of biological bases, social marginality, and family situations all can be coped with to decrease the symptoms of conduct disorder. Mental disorders do not just happen to someone out of the blue; they become part of that person through factors one must learn from. It is not fair that some children have to witness the divorce and remarriage of their parents, but children have to understand it is not their fault. If children can realize that, then stress will not increase so much, and the cry for attention will not be so pronounced. Having children be considered outcasts within peer groups also is not fair. Children should all be socially accepted and have friends so characteristics of rejection, hatred, and anger do not appear. A biological basis for conduct disorder is something slightly more difficult. The chemical imbalance within the brain cannot permantly be changed but can be put back in balance with medication. Medication, in some options, might not be the best solution, but it will help diminish the characteristics of conduct disorder.

Understanding the factors that cause conduct disorder will help families, psychologists, physicians, and the person with the disorder learn how its symptoms can be decreased. People who have conduct disorder do not just all of a sudden catch it like a cold. Its causes must be taken into consideration to understand the disorder and why adolescents act the way they do. If causes were understood, many would understand why children act out with unacceptable behaviors.

Peer Commentary

How Parents Influence Children's Development: Heredity Versus Environment

Caitlin M. Jones
Rochester Institute of Technology

According to Reiss (1997), there are three different models of genetic transmission to explain how genes are transferred from parent to child. The passive model can be used to explain the genetic effects as a result of the overlap in 50% of the genes that a parent and a biological child share. The child-effects model can be used to explain how certain genes predispose a child to certain behaviors, and thus, that behavior is the direct cause of the parent's reaction. The parent-effects model can be used to explain how genes are responsible for the temperament of a child, which causes a reaction from parents, and consequently leads to certain behavior in the child. As a result, in the child-effects model, the parent's behavior does not influence the child's development; in the parent-effects model, the parent's behavior does influence the child's development.

In the paper, "Pathways From Childhood Conduct Problems to Adult Criminality," Panko mentioned that "Some parents may lack the psychological or physical skill to cope and deal with a difficult child, so they respond negatively and impulsively." Let us assume that this example illustrates the child-effects model, with the child displaying a difficult temperament and the parent's negative reaction to that. As stated earlier, the conclusion that can be drawn from the child-effects model is that the parent's behavior does not influence the child's development. This model also supports the significance of genetic influences from a parent to a child (Reiss, 1997). Anything beyond genetic transmission, including behaviors, beliefs, and attitudes of the parents, is not independently influential in personality development. The author could use this example to support the idea that the parent's behavior is not influential, but she seems to be unclear of her position.

To further increase doubts about the author's viewpoint, she stated that the environment a child shares with the parents has an influence on personality development. Behavior genetics research has consistently found that the shared environment, including parent's behaviors, beliefs, and attitudes, account for less than 10% of the variance in personality development (Plomin & Daniels, 1987). From my perspective, Panko seems to be supporting two distinct views: that parents do influence their child's personality development independently of genetic factors, and that parents do not influence their child's personality development except through genetic factors. If Panko wanted to bolster her argument for the environmental influence that parents have, she could look to the social learning theory. An example can be seen in a child who observes aggressive behavior, believes it to be normal, and then continues to use that behavior because he or she does not see the harm in acting similarly to parents or siblings (Miles & Carey, 1997). If the author wanted to bolster her argument for genetic influences, she could use the child-effects model or look to the vast array of behavior genetics research.

Thus it seems evident that Panko conducted thorough research but could improve her arguments. To include a discussion that clearly exposes her beliefs on whether parents influence personality development of children or not and her interpretation of how genetics are intertwined in personality development would certainly enhance the overall quality of the paper.

Author Response

Understanding the Causes of Criminality Leads to Improved Interventions

Tiffany L. Panko
Rochester Institute of Technology

I appreciate the time and effort of the peer commentators in reading my paper and writing a commentary expanding on my points I may not have been able to discuss fully. The idea of childhood conduct problems turning into adult criminality is a complicated one, and I could not possibly have done all the research on it. I think reading the commentaries serves as enrichment to my paper.

In Aquilano's commentary, he mentioned that more research in effective treatments for childhood conduct disorders should be looked into and I agree on this point. It is important to catch these symptoms early on and teach these children how to cope or adjust to society so that they will refrain from criminal activity. I found it very interesting that Aquilano suggested that looking into why and how women internalize their problems would help establish a method of treatment for delinquent boys. I think that would be a promising research project.

I found Armer's commentary very insightful and more research on the arguments she provided would be interesting. I agree that ADHD probably is being over-diagnosed and I am shocked and appalled to learn that children as young as three are being given Ritalin. There should be more research or at least consideration as to what the environmental causes of ADHD are. I believe that the fast paced society we are living in, less time shared between children and their parents, and television being used as a “babysitter” are potential problems. Ritalin does not solve or address these issues at all.

Fitzgerald's commentary was strong and provided a lot of good points. I agree completely that society, especially parents, needs to understand what causes conduct disorder. The parents can then pay careful attention to their young children and be there as counsel if they witness that their offspring are having difficulties and may not be coping appropriately. Fitzgerald's paper is a great expansion on my point that early intervention is necessary in preventing adult criminality in these children.

I would have liked to read more explanation in Jones' commentary regarding the genetic effects model and possibly additions of other theories. I know my paper could not have written on everything possible about this topic, but I touched on the parental causes because this was not the point I wanted to focus my paper on. I included a statement regarding how children may view their parent's aggressive behavior and believe it to be normal and imitate it, and I thank Jones for suggesting this relationship to the social learning theory.


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