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Antisocial cognition and crime continuity: Cognitive mediation of the past crime-future crime relationship

Glenn D. Walters & Matt DeLisi

Journal of Criminal Justice

Volume 41, Issue 2, March–April 2013, Pages 135–140




The purpose of this study was to assess whether antisocial cognition is capable of mediating the well-documented relationship between past and future criminality.



Data for this study came from 812 members of the four-wave National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health). Antisocial cognition was measured with nine self-report items reflecting a thrill-seeking, manipulative, callous, deceptive, and rule-breaking attitude. The predictor variable (delinquency), outcome variable (crime), and four observed confounding covariates (low self-control, delinquent peers, maternal attachment, and intelligence) were also measured via self-report.



Causal mediation analysis revealed that antisocial cognition, assessed during wave 3 of the Add Health study, partially mediated the relationship between delinquency at wave 2 and criminality at wave 4. This mediational effect was moderately robust to potential pre-treatment confounds from constructs central to four major criminological theories (low self-control, delinquent peers, maternal attachment, and intelligence) and to unobserved confounds from three demographic variables (age, gender, and race).



These results suggest that antisocial cognition is both a cause and effect of antisocial behavior. Consequently, antisocial cognition is not only an important dynamic risk/needs factor, but should also be addressed in programs designed to ameliorate current criminality and prevent future antisocial behavior.



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