Statistical correlations of criminal behaviour

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The statistical correlations of criminal behavior explore the associations of specific non-criminal factors with specific crimes.

The field of criminology studies the dynamics of crime. Most of these studies use correlational data; that is, they attempt to identify various factors are associated with specific categories of criminal behavior. Such correlational studies led to hypotheses about the causes of these crimes.

The Handbook of Crime Correlates (2009) is a systematic review of 5200 empirical studies on crime that have been published worldwide. A crime consistency score represents the strength of relationships. The scoring depends on how consistently a statistically significant relationship was identified across multiple studies. The authors claim that the review summarizes most of what is currently known about the variables associated with criminality.[1]

Gender and biology[edit]

Crime occurs most frequently during the second and third decades of life. Males commit more crime overall and more violent crime than females. They commit more property crime except shoplifting, which is about equally distributed between the genders. Males appear to be more likely to reoffend. Measures related to arousal such as heart rate and skin conductance are low among criminals. Mesomorphic or muscular body type is positively correlated with criminality, in particular with sexual crimes.Testosterone levels positively correlate to criminal behavior.[1]

When controlling for age and sex, strong genetic correlates with criminality. Low monoamine oxidase activity and low 5-HIAA levels tend to be found among criminals.[1] Monoamine oxidase A (dubbed the "warrior gene" in the popular press) is strongly tied to an increased tendency towards violent crime. In addition, CDH13, a gene previously tied to an increased risk of substance abuse, has been tied to violent crime.[2] These tendencies are ostensibly related, as the majority of all individuals who commit severe violent crime in Finland do so under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The presence of the genetic profile is not determinative, although it increases the likelihood of delinquency in cases where other factors are present. Ferguson stated, 'a large percentage of our behaviour in terms of violence or aggression is influenced by our biology - our genes - and our brain anatomy.'[citation needed] Schnupp stated, 'To call these alleles "genes for violence" would therefore be a massive exaggeration. In combination with many other factors these genes may make it a little harder for you to control violent urges, but they most emphatically do not predetermine you for a life of crime.'[citation needed]

Race, ethnicity and immigration[edit]

Associated factors include race and crime and status as an immigrant. Ethnically/racially diverse geographical areas have higher crime rates compared to homogeneous areas. Most studies on immigrants found higher rates of crime among these populations; these rates vary according to the country of origin (immigrants from some regions having lower crime rates than the indigenous population).[1]

Early life[edit]

Associated factors include maternal smoking during pregnancy, Low birth weight, perinatal trauma/birth complications,[1][3] child maltreatment, low parent-child attachment, marital discord/family discord, alcoholism and drug use in the family, low parental supervision/monitoring, family size and birth order,[1] nocturnal enuresis or bed wetting, bullying, school disciplinary problems, truancy, low grade point average, and dropping out of high school[1] and childhood lead exposure.[4]

Adult behavior[edit]

Associated factors include high alcohol use, alcohol abuse and alcoholism, high illegal drug use and dependence, early age of first sexual intercourse and the number of sexual partners, social isolation, criminal peer groups and gang membership.[1]


A few studies have found a negative correlation between religiosity and criminality. A 2001 meta-analysis found, "religious beliefs and behaviors exert a moderate deterrent effect on individuals' criminal behavior".[5][6] An individual with high religious saliency (i.e. expressing the high importance of religion in their life) is less likely to be associated with criminal activities; similarly, an individual who regularly attends religious services or is highly involved in them tends to be less involved in criminality, with the exception of property damage.[7] Other meta-analysis research suggests that those who subscribe to more orthodox religious beliefs are less likely to engage in criminal behavior than those who do not.[8]

A 1997 study found no statistically significant negative correlations between religiosity and crime, or religiosity and drug use, and the only relationship between religiosity and alcohol was statistically significant.[9] A more recent review concludes that there are insufficient data to indicate any correlation between religiosity and crime.[10]

Psychological traits[edit]

Associated factors include childhood conduct disorder, adult antisocial personality disorder (also associated with each other),[1][11] attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, minor depression, clinical depression, depression in the family, suicidal tendencies and[1] schizophrenia.[1][12]

The American Psychological Association's 1995 report Intelligence: Knowns and Unknowns stated that the correlation between IQ and crime was -0.2. In his book The g Factor (1998), Arthur Jensen cited data which showed that IQ was generally negatively associated with crime among people of all races, peaking between 80 and 90. Learning disability is a substantial discrepancy between IQ and academic performance and is associated with crime. Slow reading development may be particularly relevant.[1]

Several personality traits are associated with criminality: impulsivity, psychoticism, sensation-seeking, (low) self control, childhood aggression, low empathy and low altruism.[1]

Socioeconomic factors[edit]

Socioeconomic status (usually measured using the three variables income (or wealth), occupational level, and years of education) correlates negatively with criminality, except for self-reported illegal drug use. Higher parental socioeconomic status probably has an inverse relationship with crime.[1]

Unstable employment and high frequency of unemployment correlate positively with criminality.[1]

Somewhat inconsistent evidence indicates a relationship between low income, percentage under the poverty line, few years of education, and high income inequality in an area and more crime in the area.[1]

Geographic factors[edit]

Associated factors include areas with population size, neighborhood quality, residential mobility, tavern and alcohol density, gambling and tourist density, proximity to the equator,[1] temperature (weather and season). The higher crime rate in the southern US largely disappears after controlling for non-climatic factors.[13]

Parent/child relationships[edit]

Children whose parents did not want children are more likely to commit crimes. Such children are less likely to succeed in school, and are more likely to live in poverty.[3] They tend to have lower mother-child relationship quality.[14]

Biosocial criminology[edit]

Biosocial criminology is an interdisciplinary field that aims to explain crime and antisocial behavior by exploring both biological factors and environmental factors. While contemporary criminology has been dominated by sociological theories, biosocial criminology also recognizes the potential contributions of fields such as genetics, neuropsychology and evolutionary psychology.[15]

Aggressive behavior has been associated with abnormalities in three principal regulatory systems in the body:

Abnormalities in these systems also are known to be induced by stress, either severe, acute stress or chronic low-grade stress.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Ellis, Beaver & Wright 2009.
  2. ^ Tiihonen, J; Rautiainen, M-R; Ollila, H M; Repo-Tiihonen, E; Virkkunen, M; Palotie, A; Pietiläinen, O; Kristiansson, K; Joukamaa, M. "Genetic background of extreme violent behavior". Molecular Psychiatry. 20 (6): 786–792. doi:10.1038/mp.2014.130. 
  3. ^ a b Monea J, Thomas A (June 2011). "Unintended pregnancy and taxpayer spending". Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health. 43: 88–93. doi:10.1363/4308811. PMID 21651707. 
  4. ^ "America's Real Criminal Element: Lead". Mother Jones. 
  5. ^ BAIER, C. J. (2001). ""If You Love Me, Keep My Commandments": A Meta-Analysis of the Effect of Religion on Crime". Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency. 38 (1): 3–21. doi:10.1177/0022427801038001001. 
  6. ^ EVANS, T. DAVID (1995). "RELIGION AND CRIME REEXAMINED: THE IMPACT OF RELIGION, SECULAR CONTROLS, AND SOCIAL ECOLOGY ON ADULT CRIMINALITY*". Criminology. 33 (2): 195–224. doi:10.1111/j.1745-9125.1995.tb01176.x. 
  7. ^ Ellis, Beaver & Wright 2009, p. 108.
  8. ^ Ellis, Beaver & Wright 2009, p. 112.
  9. ^ BENDA, B. B. (1997). "An Examination of a Reciprocal Relationship Between Religiosity and Different Forms of Delinquency Within a Theoretical Model". Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency. 34 (2): 163–186. doi:10.1177/0022427897034002001. 
  10. ^ Zuckerman, Phil (2009-12-01). "Atheism, Secularity, and Well-Being: How the Findings of Social Science Counter Negative Stereotypes and Assumptions". Sociology Compass. 3 (6): 949–971. doi:10.1111/j.1751-9020.2009.00247.x. ISSN 1751-9020. 
  11. ^ Wilson, James Q.; Petersilia, Joan (2002). Crime: public policies for crime control. ICS Press. ISBN 9781558155091. 
  12. ^ Fazel, S.; Grann, M. (2006). "The Population Impact of Severe Mental Illness on Violent Crime". American Journal of Psychiatry. 163 (8): 1397–1403. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.163.8.1397. PMID 16877653. 
  13. ^ Miller, J. Mitchell (18 August 2009). 21st Century Criminology: A Reference Handbook. Sage. p. 57. ISBN 9781412960199. 
  14. ^ "Family Planning – Healthy People 2020". Retrieved 2011-08-18.  Which cites:
    • Logan C, Holcombe E, Manlove J, et al. (2007 May [cited 2009 Mar 3]). "The consequences of unintended childbearing: A white paper" (PDF). Washington: Child Trends, Inc.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
    • Cheng D, Schwarz E, Douglas E, et al. (March 2009). "Unintended pregnancy and associated maternal preconception, prenatal and postpartum behaviors". Contraception. 79 (3): 194–8. doi:10.1016/j.contraception.2008.09.009. PMID 19185672. 
    • Kost K, Landry D, Darroch J (Mar–Apr 1998). "Predicting maternal behaviors during pregnancy: Does intention status matter?". Fam Plann Perspectives. 30 (2): 79–88. doi:10.2307/2991664. PMID 9561873. 
    • D'Angelo, D, Colley Gilbert B, Rochat R; et al. (Sep–Oct 2004). "Differences between mistimed and unwanted pregnancies among women who have live births.". Perspect Sex Reprod Health. 36 (5): 192–7. doi:10.1363/3619204. PMID 15519961. 
  15. ^ Walsh, Anthony; Beaver, Kevin M (28 January 2013). "Biosocial Criminology". The Ashgate Research Companion to Biosocial Theories of Crime. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. ISBN 978-1-4094-9470-6. 
  16. ^ WALTON K. G.; LEVITSKY D. K. (2003). "Effects of the Transcendental Meditation program on neuroendocrine abnormalities associated with aggression and crime.". Journal of Offender Rehabilitation. 36 (1-4): 67–87. doi:10.1300/J076v36n01_04. Retrieved 29 February 2016. 


Ellis, Lee; Beaver, Kevin M.; Wright, John (1 April 2009). Handbook of Crime Correlates. Academic Press. ISBN 9780123736123.