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Abstract

Background;

Lately there has been an increasing interest in whether personality traits are associated with criminal behaviour in male and female subjects. Criminality and alcohol abuse are often associated. Delinquent adolescents are impulsive and danger seeking. Childhood aggression may be a precursor of adult criminality.

Method

Using longitudinal data, adult personality and childhood behaviours were examined for groups of non-criminals and criminals of Finnish (n = 268) and Swedish (n + 169) samples, and crime groups were compared in the two cultures. Karolinska Scales of Personality (KSP) were given at adult age and the participants had been observed and rated by their teachers in respect of behaviour in childhood (at age 8 years and 13 years, respectively).

Results

Male offenders with alcohol problems (Finnish and Swedish) had significantly higher scores on psychopathy-related personality traits in adulthood than other subgroups, as indicated by higher impulsivity, muscular tension and lower socialization. They also displayed higher scores on teacher-rated aggressiveness in childhood than the non-criminal groups. The female subgroup displaying criminal activity was small. It did not differ significantly from non-offenders in adult personality characteristics. Female offenders, however, showed early indications of lower sociability (in Finland) and higher aggressiveness and disharmony in childhood than non-offenders (in Sweden).

Discussion

The study suggests that early problem behaviours are precursors of subsequent criminal activity in at least two cultures. The results emphasize the importance of longitudinal research programmes. Copyright © 2000 Whurr Publishers Ltd.