Intergenerational Cluster

Criminal Behaviour from an Intergenerational Perspective


Lidewyde Berckmoes, Catrien Bijleveld, Arjan Blokland, Anja Dirkzwager, Veroni Eichelsheim (coordinator), Barbora Holá, Marie Lindegaard, Elanie Rodermond, Frank Weerman, Steve van de Weijer


Mikko Aaltonen (University of Helsinki), Brandon Welsh (Northeastern University)


The members of this cluster have a strong research interest in studying criminal behaviour from an intergenerational perspective. This means that they explore to which extent, how, and why criminal behaviour is being transferred across generations. They focus on patterns of intergenerational continuity of (criminal) behaviour, but are also interested in intergenerational discontinuity – those cases in which behaviour is not being transferred across generations against all odds.

Theoretical perspectives

The cluster’s research programme is strongly inspired by the six – not mutually exclusive – , mechanisms as described by Farrington (2002) that provide explanations for the intergenerational transmission of (criminal) behaviour. First, intergenerational continuities in the exposure to risk factors may lead to antisocial behaviour (e.g., poverty, poor parenting). Second, genetic factors may play a role. Third, shared familial antisocial features may explain why criminal behaviour transfers from one generation to another. Fourth, processes of assortative mating may underlie patterns of intergenerational transmission. Fifth, implicit and explicit social learning may play a role. And lastly, official bias from the police and judiciary may be responsible for intergenerational continuity in convictions.

Research topics

Research focuses on complex interacting mechanisms that underlie intergenerational transmission of criminal behaviour. Sometimes criminal behaviour can be seen as the cause of other factors that are being transferred across generations (e.g. the absence of a parent as a result of incarceration, poverty and other socioeconomic disadvantage, poor parenting or poor family relationships), and in other cases criminal behaviour can be seen as the consequence of intergenerational transmission of other factors (e.g. poverty and other socioeconomic disadvantages, harsh parenting, child abuse, or family aggression and violence).

Data sources

We use a variety of data (i.e. official record data, survey data and interview data) that we analyse using different techniques (i.e., quantitative, qualitative, and mixed method).

(Inter)national collaborations

Cluster members collaborate with researchers in the Netherlands and abroad. In certain research projects carried out within/ initiated by this cluster we collaborate with Dutch colleagues such as Edward Kleemans (VU), Aat Liefbroer (NIDI), and Susan Branje (UU). International collaborations are already established, for example with Terence Thornberry (University of Maryland), Brandon Welsh (Northeastern University), Kevin Beaver (Florida State University), Sytske Besemer (Berkeley University), and Mikko Aaltonen (University of Helsinki).

An international symposium was organised at NSCR in June 2016. As a result of this international meeting an edited volume is being planned around fall 2017. The cluster heads a national working group on Intergenerational Research within the Netherlands Society of Criminology.

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