Central to this research program is the question of who is at risk of developing criminal and antisocial behavior. We investigate in which phase of life this occurs and what possible explanations are. Answers to these questions show why some people are more at risk than others and what knowledge is needed to develop effective interventions.
In this research group, we look, among other things, at behavior that deviates from accepted social or legal norms, such as problematic, aggressive or criminal behavior, and we investigate which factors increase the risk of such behavior. Are there certain life stages or events that predispose people to antisocial behavior and why? How do criminal careers begin, progress and end? And why is it that some families have been stuck for generations in patterns of antisocial behavior and problems that just keep piling up?
The individual is central to this research. But individuals cannot be separated from the social and institutional context in which they live. That is why we also investigate, for example, the role of family or neighborhood characteristics, the role of friendship networks and the role of (larger) social developments in the development of antisocial behavior. We also investigate what makes young people susceptible to membership of organized criminal networks.
Risk factors for antisocial behavior may be familial or biological in nature, among others. We therefore look at the transmission of crime over generations. We also compare risk factors for certain types of crime, such as online and offline crime. Because some people do not develop antisocial behavior despite being exposed to risk factors, we also try to understand this. Finally, we follow children and young people who cannot grow up at home – for example due to antisocial behavior by themselves or their parents – and we look at the consequences for their criminal careers.
Researchers with different areas of expertise work together in this research group, so that we study criminal and antisocial behavior from different scientific disciplines. This multidisciplinarity is reflected in the theories we use to explain antisocial behavior across the life-course and generations. Classical etiological theories (social learning theory, differential association theory, social bonds and biosocial theories) are an important starting point for our research. These theories often have roots in psychology or sociology, and have been applied to explain antisocial and criminal behavior. In addition, we make use of life-course theories (age graded theory, dual taxonomy model, interactional theory). We also use theories about intergenerational cycles of violence, sociological theories about relationships and relationship formation, and also more developmental theories about attachment, relationship formation, family functioning and parenting behaviour. Moreover, the Risks, Needs and Responsivity framework (RNR; Andrews & Bonta) comes in handy more than once in our research into effective interventions. Intergenerational research benefits from the use of theory from biological psychology and genetics.
For the large-scale research within this program we use extensive longitudinal datasets, with information over several generations. These datasets are often the result of collaborations with other institutes. We use survey data, population data (CBS), file data from the police or judicial authorities and healthcare providers, such as Safe Home or the Child Protection Board.
In addition to life-course trajectory analyses, growth models and cluster analyses, our data and research questions are also suitable for network analysis in which relationships between people are central. File data is analyzed both quantitatively and qualitatively. We complement large-scale research with more small-scale qualitative work: interviews, observations and case studies. Thanks to this method of data collection, we can approach causality as closely as possible. This can be done with (semi-)experimental design or by using natural experiments, such as the ‘Hongerwinter’ (extreme hunger/poverty in the winter of 1944-45) or the Covid-19 crisis.