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Crime Families: Gender and the Intergenerational Transfer of Criminal Tendencies

NCJ Number
Vanessa Goodwin; Brent Davis
Date Published
May 2011
6 pages
This study from the Australian Institute of Criminology examined the effect of gender on the intergenerational transfer of criminal tendencies.
This study found that for families where parents had a criminal record, the more serious the parent's criminal record, the greater the probability that their children would subsequently have a criminal record, with the father's criminal record having a greater influence on the children's subsequent offending than the mother's criminal record. For families where only the father had a criminal record, the probability of the sons having a criminal record was 48.5 percent, an increase of 30 percent from 18.7 percent for sons having a criminal record in families where neither parent had a criminal record. For families where the mother had a criminal record but the father did not, the probability that the son would have a criminal record increased to 33 percent, indicating that the mother's criminal record had less of an influence on the son's subsequent offending behavior. For families where both parents had a criminal record, the probability of the son having a serious criminal record increased to 67 percent, indicating the presence of a multiplier effect between the parent's behavior. The same patterns of future offending were found for daughters of parents with criminal records, however the influence on the girls, while still substantial, was not as significant as that found for the boys. This study examined the influence of a parent's criminal history on the future offending behavior of their children to determine the degree of intergenerational transfer of criminal tendencies. Data for the study were obtained from six multigenerational families with criminal histories spanning several generations. The findings from the study indicate that the children of parents with a criminal record have a much greater likelihood of becoming involved in crime than the children of parents who do not have a criminal record. Recommendations for future research are discussed. Figures and references