Four factors predict which toddlers are likely to grow up to be criminals.

Video via Mamamia

Research out of New Zealand claims to have identified the four childhood personality traits most likely to produce future criminals.

The group of scientists, led by Avshalom Caspi from Duke University in North Carolina in the US, followed a cohort of 1037 people born in Dunedin for four decades.

Now aged 38, the participants have been assessed using interviews, health records and government records.

As well as criminal behaviour, lifestyle factors such as the likelihood to smoke tobacco, take out prescription drugs, become overweight and use welfare entitlements were also studied in relation to certain childhood conditions.

Among the group of people studied, there were a total of 2142 convictions for crimes excluding routine traffic offences. The convictions were highly concentrated, with 20 per cent of the cohort accounting for 97 per cent of convictions.

The researchers found the four early childhood factors linked to future criminal activity include:

  • Growing up in a low socioeconomic status environment
  • Being subject to child maltreatment
  • Receiving poor results on childhood IQ tests
  • Exhibiting low childhood self-control

Children who experienced all four childhood factors comprised only 22 per cent of the population studied. This same 22 per cent were responsible for 81 per cent of criminal convictions in the entire cohort.

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As well as the majority of criminal convictions, the 22 per cent also accounted for:

  • 36 per cent of the cohort’s injury insurance claims
  • 40 per cent of excess weight in kilograms
  • 54 per cent of the cigarettes smoked
  • 57 per cent of nights spent in hospital
  • 66 per cent of welfare benefits
  • 77 per cent of fatherless child-rearing
  • 78 per cent of prescription fills

The research is to be published in the forthcoming issue of Nature Human Behaviour.

The insights have been presented as a potentially valuable tool to inform early-years intervention programs in the US and around the world.

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