The Developmental Nature of the Victim-Offender Overlap.


Journal Article

Purpose:It is well-established that victims and offenders are often the same people, a phenomenon known as the victim-offender overlap, but the developmental nature of this overlap remains uncertain. In this study, we drew from a developmental theoretical framework to test effects of genetics, individual characteristics, and routine-activity-based risks. Drawing from developmental literature, we additionally tested the effect of an accumulation of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). Methods:Data came from the Environmental Risk (E-Risk) Study, a representative UK birth cohort of 2232 twins born in 1994-1995 and followed to age 18 (with 93% retention). Crime victimization and offending were assessed through self-reports at age 18 (but findings replicated using crime records). We used the classical twin study method to decompose variance in the victim-offender overlap into genetic and environmental components. We used logistic regression to test the effects of childhood risk factors. Results:In contrast to past twin studies, we found that environment (as well as genes) contributed to the victim-offender overlap. Our logistic regression results showed that childhood low self-control and childhood antisocial behavior nearly doubled the odds of becoming a victim-offender, compared to a victim-only or an offender-only. Each additional ACE increased the odds of becoming a victim-offender, compared to a victim-only or an offender-only, by approximately 12%, pointing to the importance of cumulative childhood adversity. Conclusions:This study showed that the victim-offender overlap is, at least partially, developmental in nature and predictable from personal childhood characteristics and an accumulation of many adverse childhood experiences.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Beckley, AL; Caspi, A; Arseneault, L; Barnes, JC; Fisher, HL; Harrington, H; Houts, R; Morgan, N; Odgers, CL; Wertz, J; Moffitt, TE

Published Date

  • March 2018

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 4 / 1

Start / End Page

  • 24 - 49

PubMed ID

  • 29581934

Pubmed Central ID

  • 29581934

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 2199-465X

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 2199-4641

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1007/s40865-017-0068-3


  • eng