SECTION 1 Good Prospects in the Differential Etiology of Violence. Logic and Reasoning

The Development of the Violent Person


It is believed that early experiences affect our lives profoundly. Thousands of studies have examined this assumption. Developmental criminology assumes that the childhood experiences of some individuals make criminal offending more likely and can also influence enduring antisocial habits.

The abutment between developmental psychology and the field of criminology is far from seamless. While developmental criminologists have provided useful theoretical models of criminality and violence and an abundance of data that allow us to identify correlates of these constructs, the link between state-of-the- art developmental psychology and criminology has rarely been made. The two bodies of literature remain largely independent and leave important questions underexamined. For one, most developmental studies are about aggression and conduct disorders, but most criminologists are interested in crime and violence. These behaviors overlap, but the extent to which the former lead to the latter is rarely understood.

Child clinical psychologists focus on the diagnosis of disorders in children which are defined by constellations of symptoms in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) (currently DSM-5) (APA, 2013). Disorders that are associated with later delinquent behaviors include Conduct Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, and Attention-Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder. The diagnosis of Conduct Disorder in childhood maps fairly readily onto the diagnosis of Antisocial Personality Disorder in adulthood. Although the DSM-5 does not emphasize the distinction between physically aggressive children and those who display other antisocial tendencies, many researchers and clinicians do. Anderson and Bushman (2002) define aggression as “any behavior directed toward another individual that is carried out with the proximate (immediate) intent to cause harm. In addition, the perpetrator must believe that the behavior will harm the target and that the target is motivated to avoid the behavior” (p. 28). Some authors use the term “physical aggression” or “overt aggression” and “covert aggression” to help make the distinction (e.g., Loeber et al., 2008; Tremblay, 2003). Tremblay (2003) defines physical aggression as “the use of behaviors, similar to the following, in antagonistic interactions with other humans: hitting, slapping, kicking, biting, pushing, grabbing, pulling, shoving, throwing objects at another, beating, twisting, choking” (p. 190). Resembling our own point of view on this matter, Tremblay stresses that serious offending is more important: “Funding for research on juvenile delinquency and CD increases when juveniles commit homicide, not when they run away from home, shoplift, or are truant from school” (p. 188).

Thus, when we attempt to organize the findings from developmental psychology into something useful for understanding violent crime, we find a number of areas of research which are of interest that have varying degrees of overlap with our idea of violence. We find some studies that specifically measure physical aggression (very helpful), and others which measure aggression using scales that include both physical and nonviolent items, such as peer-nominated aggression scales which include pushing and shoving and starting fights, but also sticking out one’s tongue, disobeying the teacher (less helpful). The Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) (Achenbach & Edelbrock, 1983) includes arguing, bragging, and demanding. Tremblay levels complaints about this as well (Tremblay, 2003). In the psychology literature, we find discussions of psychopathology, including conduct disorders (some overlap) and later antisocial personality disorder, soci- opathy and psychopathy (more overlap).We need to bridge these literatures to better understand violent criminal conduct.

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