Background: Prior studies suggest parental and perinatal risk factors are associated with later offending. It remains uncertain, however, if such risk factors are similarly related to sexual offending.
Method: We linked socio-demographic, family relations, and perinatal (obtained at birth) data from the nationwide Swedish registers from 1973 to 2009 with information on criminal convictions of cases and control subjects. Male sex offenders (n = 13 773) were matched 1:5 on birth year and county of birth in Sweden to male controls without sexual or non-sexual violent convictions. To examine risk-factor specificity for sexual offending, we also compared male violent, non-sexual offenders (n = 135 953) to controls without sexual or non-sexual violent convictions. Predictors included parental (young maternal or paternal age at son's birth, educational attainment, violent crime, psychiatric disorder, substance misuse, suicide attempt) and perinatal (number of older brothers, low Apgar score, low birth weight, being small for gestational age, congenital malformations, small head size) variables.
Results: Conditional logistic regression models found consistent patterns of statistically significant, small to moderate independent associations of parental risk factors with sons' sexual offending and non-sexual violent offending. For perinatal risk factors, patterns varied more; small for gestational age and small head size exhibited similar risk effects for both offence types whereas a higher number of older biological brothers and any congenital malformation were small, independent risk factors only for non-sexual violence.
Conclusions: This nationwide study suggests substantial commonalities in parental and perinatal risk factors for the onset of sexual and non-sexual violent offending.
Keywords: Case-control; parental characteristics; perinatal; risk factor; sex offending.