Socioeconomic disadvantage and psychological deficits: Pathways from early cumulative risk to late-adolescent criminal conviction

J Adolesc. 2018 Jun;65:16-24. doi: 10.1016/j.adolescence.2018.02.010. Epub 2018 Mar 6.


Early exposure to multiple risk factors has been shown to predict criminal offending, but the mechanisms responsible for this association are poorly understood. Integrating social-environmental and dispositional theories of crime this research investigated the capacity of family socioeconomic disadvantage and individual psychological deficits to mediate the association between childhood cumulative risk and late adolescent criminal convictions. Male participants in the 1986 Northern Finland Birth Cohort Study (n = 3414) were followed from the prenatal period through age 19-20. The data were analyzed by estimating a structural equation model of the hypothesized pathways. The results found support for both processes of influence, and the model sustained a statistically significant direct effect of cumulative risk on crime. Socioeconomic disadvantage and psychological deficits contribute to criminal offending independently and with roughly equal magnitude. The results point to the utility of both environmental and psychological interventions to prevent criminality among children at risk.

Keywords: Criminality; Cumulative risk; Economic disadvantage; Finland; Psychological deficits.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Cohort Studies
  • Finland / epidemiology
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Juvenile Delinquency*
  • Learning Disabilities / epidemiology*
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Environment*
  • Socioeconomic Factors*
  • Young Adult