Developmental Origins of Antisocial Behavior
- Richard E. TremblayRichard E. TremblayDepartment of Public Health, University of Montreal and Dublin College
Most studies conducted on the development of antisocial behavior focused on school children and attempted to understand how children learn to steal and aggress others. Results from longitudinal studies that were initiated in early childhood show that children do not learn to bully, physically aggress, and rob from their environment. These longitudinal studies show that antisocial behaviors are most frequent during early childhood and that children learn from their environment not to bully, not to aggress, and not to rob. In other words, young children are socialized by their environment. Those who do not learn well enough to control these natural tendencies are rejected very early in their development by their environment, unless they are living in an antisocial environment. The further advance of this research area will require that the next generation of researchers integrate theories and methods from the biological, psychological, and social sciences because the development of antisocial behavior involves complex interactions between biological, psychological and sociological causal factors. The lack of an integrated bio-psycho-social perspectives has been a major weakness of research in criminology up to now. Future research needs to concentrate on two central questions: (a) Why a minority of young children fail to learn to inhibit antisocial behaviors, and (b) how we can help these children learn alternatives to antisocial behavior. Valid and effective answers to these questions will come from randomized control trials which target at risk families with intensive and long term preventive interventions during early childhood, preferably at the start of a girl’s first pregnancy, with follow ups until the at risk children have become adults and are having their own children.