Foundation for a temperament-based theory of antisocial behavior and criminal justice system involvement

Matt DeLisi, Michael G. Vaughn

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

232 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Temperament has been shown to be associated with behavior for millennia but has not been explicitly used in a theory of crime. Methods: This state-of-the-art review incorporates theory and research from over 300 studies from developmental psychology, psychiatry, genetics, neuroscience, and criminology to introduce a temperament-based theory of antisocial conduct with criminal justice system implications. Findings: Two temperamental constructs-effortful control and negative emotionality-are significantly predictive of self-regulation deficits and behavioral problems in infancy, in toddlerhood, in childhood, in adolescence, and across adulthood. Conclusion: Unlike other theories that focus merely on explaining problem behaviors, our temperament approach also explains negative and aversive interactions with criminal justice system practitioners and associated maladjustment or noncompliance with the criminal justice system. A program of research is also offered to examine and test the theory.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10-25
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Criminal Justice
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2014 Jan

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Applied Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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