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"Smart people (like smart lawyers) can come up with very good explanations for mistaken points of view."

- Richard P. Feynman, Physicist

"There is a danger in clarity, the danger of over looking the subtleties of truth."

-Alfred North Whitehead

December 6, 2010

Factors Moderately Associated With Crime

In my last entry I discussed the “big four” traits associated with criminal behavior. Andrews and Bonta (2010) also identified four additional traits associated with criminal behavior that they call the “moderate four”.[i] These four, along with the “big four” are what these researchers call the central eight. Andrews and Bonta calculated the correlation coefficients associated with the “moderate four” using a meta-analytic review. The grand mean of the coefficient correlations associated with these four factors averaged .17 as compared to .26 for the “big four”.[ii]

One of the “moderate four” is the offender’s family and marital circumstances. This factor assesses the quality of the offender’s relationship with their family and in older offenders, with their spouse, and the extent to which the offender’s family and spouse discourage anti-social behavior, and monitor the offender’s behavior. In young people, the factor includes the attitudes offenders have toward their parents and their parents’ opinions. With married offenders, lower risk is associated with a spouse that has pro-social expectations of the offender and keeps an eye on the offender. As Andrews and Bonta, only partly in jest, write “Do you know where your spouse is?”[iii]

The second of the “moderate four” is how the offender performs in school and work. High risk for re-offending is found with offenders who have a low commitment to school or a job, and low attachment to school or work colleagues.[iv]

The third of the “moderate four” is the level of involvement in pro-social leisure pursuits.[v] The interaction of the offender with other pro-social individuals provides the needed reinforcement to keep an offender on the straight and narrow as compared to just hanging out with criminal-minded friends. (Like work, spending time on a pro-social leisure activity reduces the time available for criminal activity. Some researchers hypothesize that potential offenders have been busy with video games and internet activities, which have displaced criminal activity.[vi])

The presence or absence of a substance abuse problem is the fourth of the “moderate four”. The offenders use and abuse of alcohol and drugs, and their attitudes toward these substances is another factor moderately associated with criminal behavior.[vii]

Factors identified as have very little or no association with criminal behavior are: lower-class origins, personal distress/psychopathology, fear of official punishment (deterrence), verbal intelligence, happiness, self-esteem, sociability, spirituality, openness to experience, and feelings of anxiety and worry.[viii]

One may ask, where are gender and age? Don’t young males offend more often than older females? They do. However, according to Andrews and Bonta these variables lose independent predictive power after one considers the “central eight” factors. For example, young males in general will test higher for impulsiveness, which is part of antisocial personality pattern (one of the “big four”), than for example, older females.[ix]



[i] Andrews, D.A. and James Bonta, (2010), The Psychology of Criminal Conduct, 5th Edition, Mathew Bender and Company, New Providence, NJ, p. 65.

[ii] Ibid, p. 65

[iii] Ibid p. 59

[iv] Ibid p. 59

[v] Ibid. p. 59-60.

[vi] The Economist, May 13, 2010, “…And Larry Katz, a Harvard economist, suspects that video games and websites may have kept the young and idle busy during this recession, thus explaining the surprising lack of an uptick in crime.

[vii] Andrews and Bonta (2010) Ibid, p. 60

[viii] Ibid. p. 61 & 65.

[ix] Ibid. p. 67-68

The views expressed in this blog are solely the views of the author(s) and do not represent the views of any other public official or organization.

1 comment:

  1. ur blog is very helpful in understanding the central 8 , the big four, and moderate, i am a criminal justice student and my professor made it confusing when explaning this info... thanks for ur time in writting and explaning this info

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