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The Developmental Nature of the Victim-Offender Overlap

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Amber L. Beckley, Avshalom Caspi, Louise Arseneault, J C Barnes, Helen Fisher, Honalee Harrington, Renate Houts, Nick Morgan, Candice Odgers, Jasmin Wertz, Terrie Edith Moffitt

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)24-49
JournalJournal of Developmental and Life Course Criminology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 22 Mar 2018


  • Beckley_Victim_2017

    Beckley_Victim_2017.docx, 191 KB, application/vnd.openxmlformats-officedocument.wordprocessingml.document


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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 1994-95 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.

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