When does the apple fall from the tree? Static versus dynamic theories predicting intergenerational transmission of crime


Criminal behavior of parents substantially affects the criminal behavior of children. Little is known, however, about how crime is transmitted from one generation to the next. In order to test two possible explanations against each other, we pose the question whether the timing of the criminal acts of fathers is important for children’s chances of committing crime. Static theories predict that it is the number of delinquent acts performed by fathers that is important, and that the particular timing does not affect the child’s chance of committing crime. Dynamic theories state that the timing is important, and children have a greater chance of committing crime in the period after fathers have committed delinquent acts. Results show that the total number of convictions of a father is indeed very important, but also the exact timing is key to understanding intergenerational transmission of crime. In the year a father is convicted the chance his child is also convicted increases substantially and it decays in subsequent years. This decay takes longer the more crimes father has committed. Our results show that some of the assumptions of the static theories at least need to be adjusted.

Journal of Quantitative Criminology, 26(3):371-389