Gender Differences in the Developmental Trajectories, Risk Factors and Outcomes of Antisocial Behaviors

By Jordan, Gerald | Gender & Behaviour, June 2011 | Go to article overview

Gender Differences in the Developmental Trajectories, Risk Factors and Outcomes of Antisocial Behaviors


Jordan, Gerald, Gender & Behaviour


Abstract

The purpose of this review was to synthesize relevant research concerning gender differences in risk factors, developmental trajectories and outcomes of antisocial behaviors. Regarding risk factors, research suggests that genetic factors predict female antisocial behavior more so than male antisocial behavior. Research suggests that neonatal insults were found to be better predictors of male antisocial behaviors relative to females. Research also suggests that neurocognitive differences (e.g., ADHD) were more predictive of antisocial behaviors in males than in females. Social factors (i.e., family-related and peer related) were found to predict behavior differently in males and females, depending on the variable in question. With regards to developmental trajectories, the reviewed research suggests that both males and females adhere to similar paths, but differ mostly as a matter of quantity of behaviors along those paths. Finally, it was shown that males on antisocial behavior trajectories faired more poorly than females, but this effect was trajectory dependent.

Introduction

Antisocial behaviors have been broadly defined as encompassing anything deemed criminal under a body of laws to a set of checked criteria nested within the pages of a diagnostician's manual. Disregarding variations in definitions and semantics, the analysis of why certain individuals commit antisocial acts is of major public importance, as the social costs of buildings set aflame and humans rendered asunder by offenders (to cite two examples from the aforementioned cornucopia of behaviors) is so staggering that official statistics, so often cited in essays such as these, provide little comprehension to the problem or justice to its victims.

Given the massive social cost of antisocial behavior, it is of utmost importance that developmentalists understand the risk factors upon which such acts are predicated upon. Furthermore, given there are differences across genders within these paths, it is important to also outline what risk factors may be similar or different for males and females. Hence, the aim of carrying out this review is to outline gender differences in antisocial behavioral trajectories and risk factors. First, differences in trajectory classes will be outlined. Second, a discussion of genetic and neonatal risk factors will be described. Third, risk factors relating to neuropsychological/ cognitive and emotional process will be delineated. Family and peer influences will ensue. Lastly, differences in outcomes will be described.

Trajectory Group Membership

Recent work into the developmental trajectories of antisocial behaviors of males and females show that both follow similar paths, varying mostly in the number of antisocial behaviors recorded. For instance, Odgers, Moffitt, Broadbent, Dickson, Hancox, Harrington, Poulton, et al. (2008) have shown that both males and females may follow a low course (defined by minimal or low rates of antisocial behavior throughout the lifespan), a childhood limited course (defined by incidences of antisocial behavior that appear in early childhood and begin to diminish in adolescence or into adulthood), an adolescent onset course (where the antisocial behavior slope suddenly spikes and then remains high throughout adulthood), and a life-course persistent/ early onset persistent course, whereby antisocial behaviors are present in childhood and remain relatively high throughout adulthood. In their study, males were shown to engage in more antisocial behaviors within their respective courses relative to females, and this effect was strongest regarding the lifecourse pathway, which is, as the author's note, consistent with virtually all literature examining such early-starter trajectories.

Similarly, Fergusson and Horwood (2002) identified five trajectory paths, which included a low category, three adolescentlimited categories that varied in terms first record of criminal behavior (early, intermediate, and late) and a group defined by continuous, chronic offending. …

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