Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa
  • Get access
    Check if you have access via personal or institutional login
  • Cited by 35
  • Cited by
    This article has been cited by the following publications. This list is generated based on data provided by CrossRef.

    Volavka, J. and Citrome, L. 2011. Pathways to Aggression in Schizophrenia Affect Results of Treatment. Schizophrenia Bulletin, Vol. 37, Issue. 5, p. 921.

    Forsman, M. and Långström, N. 2012. Child maltreatment and adult violent offending: population-based twin study addressing the ‘cycle of violence’ hypothesis. Psychological Medicine, Vol. 42, Issue. 09, p. 1977.

    Boutwell, Brian B. 2014. The Encyclopedia of Theoretical Criminology.

    Beckley, Amber L. 2015. Age at immigration and crime in Stockholm using sibling comparisons. Social Science Research, Vol. 53, p. 239.

    Lundholm, Lena Frisell, Thomas Lichtenstein, Paul and Långström, Niklas 2015. Anabolic androgenic steroids and violent offending: confounding by polysubstance abuse among 10 365 general population men. Addiction, Vol. 110, Issue. 1, p. 100.

    van de Weijer, Steve Thornberry, Terence Bijleveld, Catrien and Blokland, Arjan 2015. The Effects of Parental Divorce on the Intergenerational Transmission of Crime. Societies, Vol. 5, Issue. 1, p. 89.

    Hällsten, Martin 2014. Inequality across three and four generations in Egalitarian Sweden: 1st and 2nd cousin correlations in socio-economic outcomes. Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, Vol. 35, p. 19.

    Reardon, Lena M. 2013. The Encyclopedia of Criminology and Criminal Justice.

    Talbott, J.A. 2012. Violent crime runs in families: a total population study of 12.5 million individuals. Yearbook of Psychiatry and Applied Mental Health, Vol. 2012, p. 198.

    Chang, Zheng Larsson, Henrik Lichtenstein, Paul and Fazel, Seena 2015. Psychiatric disorders and violent reoffending: a national cohort study of convicted prisoners in Sweden. The Lancet Psychiatry, Vol. 2, Issue. 10, p. 891.

    Kuja-Halkola, Ralf Pawitan, Yudi D'Onofrio, Brian M. Långström, Niklas and Lichtenstein, Paul 2012. Advancing paternal age and offspring violent offending: A sibling-comparison study. Development and Psychopathology, Vol. 24, Issue. 03, p. 739.

    Stevens, H. Agerbo, E. Dean, K. Nordentoft, M. Nielsen, P. R. and Mortensen, P. B. 2012. Offending prior to first psychiatric contact: a population-based register study. Psychological Medicine, Vol. 42, Issue. 12, p. 2673.

    Yao, Shuyang Långström, Niklas Temrin, Hans and Walum, Hasse 2014. Criminal offending as part of an alternative reproductive strategy: investigating evolutionary hypotheses using Swedish total population data. Evolution and Human Behavior, Vol. 35, Issue. 6, p. 481.

    Kendler, K. S. Larsson Lönn, S. Morris, N. A. Sundquist, J. Långström, N. and Sundquist, K. 2014. A Swedish national adoption study of criminality. Psychological Medicine, Vol. 44, Issue. 09, p. 1913.

    Donahue, Kelly L. Lichtenstein, Paul Lundström, Sebastian Anckarsäter, Henrik Gumpert, Clara Hellner Långström, Niklas and D'Onofrio, Brian M. 2013. Childhood Behavior Problems and Adolescent Sexual Risk Behavior: Familial Confounding in the Child and Adolescent Twin Study in Sweden (CATSS). Journal of Adolescent Health, Vol. 52, Issue. 5, p. 606.

    Dean, K. Mortensen, P. B. Stevens, H. Murray, R. M. Walsh, E. and Agerbo, E. 2012. Criminal conviction among offspring with parental history of mental disorder. Psychological Medicine, Vol. 42, Issue. 03, p. 571.

    Kuja-Halkola, Ralf D’Onofrio, Brian M. Larsson, Henrik and Lichtenstein, Paul 2014. Maternal Smoking During Pregnancy and Adverse Outcomes in Offspring: Genetic and Environmental Sources of Covariance. Behavior Genetics, Vol. 44, Issue. 5, p. 456.

    Ferguson, Christopher J. Ivory, James D. and Beaver, Kevin M. 2013. Genetic, Maternal, School, Intelligence, and Media Use Predictors of Adult Criminality: A Longitudinal Test of the Catalyst Model in Adolescence through Early Adulthood. Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma, Vol. 22, Issue. 5, p. 447.

    Song, Jie Bergen, Sarah E Kuja-Halkola, Ralf Larsson, Henrik Landén, Mikael and Lichtenstein, Paul 2015. Bipolar disorder and its relation to major psychiatric disorders: a family-based study in the Swedish population. Bipolar Disorders, Vol. 17, Issue. 2, p. 184.

    Ellingson, J. M. Rickert, M. E. Lichtenstein, P. Långström, N. and D'Onofrio, B. M. 2012. Disentangling the relationships between maternal smoking during pregnancy and co-occurring risk factors. Psychological Medicine, Vol. 42, Issue. 07, p. 1547.


Violent crime runs in families: a total population study of 12.5 million individuals

  • T. Frisell (a1) (a2), P. Lichtenstein (a1) and N. Långström (a1) (a2)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 25 March 2010

Etiological theory and prior research with small or selected samples suggest that interpersonal violence clusters in families. However, the strength and pattern of this aggregation remains mostly unknown.


We investigated all convictions for violent crime in Sweden 1973–2004 among more than 12.5 million individuals in the nationwide Multi-Generation Register, and compared rates of violent convictions among relatives of violent individuals with relatives of matched, non-violent controls, using a nested case–control design.


We found strong familial aggregation of interpersonal violence among first-degree relatives [e.g. odds ratio (OR)sibling 4.3, 95% confidence interval (CI) 4.2–4.3], lower for more distant relatives (e.g. ORcousin 1.9, 95% CI 1.9–1.9). Risk patterns across biological and adoptive relations provided evidence for both genetic and environmental influences on the development of violent behavior. Familial risks were stronger among women, in higher socio-economic strata, and for early onset interpersonal violence. There were crime-specific effects (e.g. ORsibling for arson 22.4, 95% CI 12.2–41.2), suggesting both general and subtype-specific familial risk factors for violent behavior.


The observed familiality should be accounted for in criminological research, applied violence risk assessment, and prevention efforts.

Corresponding author
*Address for correspondence: T. Frisell, M.Sc., Centre for Violence Prevention, Karolinska Institutet, PO Box 23000, 104 35Stockholm, Sweden. (Email:
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

JA Bailey , KG Hill , S Oesterle , JD Hawkins (2006). Linking substance use and problem behavior across three generations. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 34, 263292.

MA Bellis , K Hughes , S Hughes , JR Ashton (2005). Measuring paternal discrepancy and its public health consequences. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 59, 749754.

CC Bijleveld , M Wijkman (2009). Intergenerational continuity in convictions: a five-generation study. Criminal Behaviour and Mental Health 19, 142155.

CR Cloninger , KO Christiansen , T Reich , II Gottesman (1978). Implications of sex differences in the prevalences of antisocial personality, alcoholism, and criminality for familial transmission. Archives of General Psychiatry 35, 941951.

RD Conger , T Neppl , KJ Kim , L Scaramella (2003). Angry and aggressive behavior across three generations: a prospective, longitudinal study of parents and children. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 31, 143160.

JL Daniels , U Forssen , CM Hultman , S Cnattingius , DA Savitz , M Feychting , P Sparen (2008). Parental psychiatric disorders associated with autism spectrum disorders in the offspring. Pediatrics 121, e1357e1362.

BM D'Onofrio , WS Slutske , E Turkheimer , RE Emery , KP Harden , AC Heath , PA Madden , NG Martin (2007). Intergenerational transmission of childhood conduct problems: a Children of Twins Study. Archives of General Psychiatry 64, 820829.

EF Dubow , LR Huesmann , P Boxer (2003). Theoretical and methodological considerations in cross-generational research on parenting and child aggressive behavior. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 31, 185192; discussion 201–203.

MK Ehrensaft , P Cohen , J Brown , E Smailes , H Chen , JG Johnson (2003). Intergenerational transmission of partner violence: a 20-year prospective study. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 71, 741753.

TC Eley , P Lichtenstein , J Stevenson (1999). Sex differences in the etiology of aggressive and nonaggressive antisocial behavior: results from two twin studies. Child Development 70, 155168.

DP Farrington , D Jolliffe , R Loeber , M Stouthamer-Loeber , LM Kalb (2001). The concentration of offenders in families, and family criminality in the prediction of boys' delinquency. Journal of Adolescence 24, 579596.

S Fazel , M Grann , E Carlstrom , P Lichtenstein , N Langstrom (2009). Risk factors for violent crime in schizophrenia: a national cohort study of 13,806 patients. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry 70, 362369.

RK Hanson , H Scott , RA Steffy (1995). A comparison of child molesters and nonsexual criminals: risk predictors and long-term recidivism. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 32, 325337.

K Hemminki , X Shu , X Li , J Ji , J Sundquist , K Sundquist (2008). Familial risks for hospitalization with endocrine diseases. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 93, 47554758.

BM Hicks , RF Krueger , WG Iacono , M McGue , CJ Patrick (2004). Family transmission and heritability of externalizing disorders: a twin-family study. Archives of General Psychiatry 61, 922928.

J Joseph (2002). Twin studies in psychiatry and psychology: science or pseudoscience? Psychiatric Quarterly 73, 7182.

RF Krueger , TE Moffitt , A Caspi , A Bleske , PA Silva (1998). Assortative mating for antisocial behavior: developmental and methodological implications. Behavior Genetics 28, 173186.

RI Lake , LJ Eaves , HH Maes , AC Heath , NG Martin (2000). Further evidence against the environmental transmission of individual differences in neuroticism from a collaborative study of 45,850 twins and relatives on two continents. Behavior Genetics 30, 223233.

M Leu , K Czene , M Reilly (2007). The impact of truncation and missing family links in population-based registers on familial risk estimates. American Journal of Epidemiology 166, 14611467.

LS Lindstrom , B Yip , P Lichtenstein , Y Pawitan , K Czene (2007). Etiology of familial aggregation in melanoma and squamous cell carcinoma of the skin. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention 16, 16391643.

TE Moffitt (1993). Adolescence-limited and life-course-persistent antisocial behavior: a developmental taxonomy. Psychological Review 100, 674701.

KC Pears , DM Capaldi (2001). Intergenerational transmission of abuse: a two-generational prospective study of an at-risk sample. Child Abuse and Neglect 25, 14391461.

A Putkonen , OP Ryynanen , M Eronen , J Tiihonen (2002). The quantitative risk of violent crime and criminal offending: a case-control study among the offspring of recidivistic Finnish homicide offenders. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica 106, 5457.

A Putkonen , OP Ryynanen , M Eronen , J Tiihonen (2007). Transmission of violent offending and crime across three generations. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology 42, 9499.

ER Rasmussen , RJ Neuman , AC Heath , F Levy , DA Hay , RD Todd (2004). Familial clustering of latent class and DSM-IV defined attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) subtypes. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines 45, 589598.

SH Rhee , ID Waldman (2002). Genetic and environmental influences on antisocial behavior: a meta-analysis of twin and adoption studies. Psychological Buletin 128, 490529.

TP Thornberry , A Freeman-Gallant , AJ Lizotte , MD Krohn , CA Smith (2003). Linked lives: the intergenerational transmission of antisocial behavior. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 31, 171184.

C Tuvblad , M Grann , P Lichtenstein (2006). Heritability for adolescent antisocial behavior differs with socioeconomic status: gene-environment interaction. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines 47, 734743.

M van de Rakt , P Nieuwbeerta , ND de Graaf (2008). Like father, like son: the relationships between conviction trajectories of fathers and their sons and daughters. British Journal of Criminology 48, 538556.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Psychological Medicine
  • ISSN: 0033-2917
  • EISSN: 1469-8978
  • URL: /core/journals/psychological-medicine
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Type Description Title
Supplementary Materials

Frisell supplementary material

 Unknown (226 KB)
226 KB