Early detection and prevention in children at risk of future criminal behaviour

February 14, 2017 • 1:00pm–2:30pm • 240 Sutardja Dai Hall


Antisocial behavior committed by youngsters is an issue of concern. Although most research focuses on identifying specific contextual or social factors that impinge on the developing child, there is a growing consensus that child-specific (i.e., genetic, temperamental) factors contribute importantly to the development and persistence of serious antisocial behavior. We have shown (a) that aggressive and conduct disordered (CD) children and juvenile offenders have an under-activity of the ANS and HPA axis systems, which could explain why they experience difficulties in regulating affect and behavior, and (b) that attenuated reactivity of the ANS in infants predisposes to aggressive behavior later in life. We have also recently studied the role of emotional deficits in children with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Although approximately 20-50% of children with ADHD develop antisocial behavioral problems or conduct disorder, the processes responsible for this outcome are not fully understood. We tested whether genetic risk is associated with impaired affective response, and whether impaired affective response mediates the relation between genetic risk and aggressive behavior in children with ADHD.

In my presentation I will argue that researching neurobiological functioning in children at risk of future criminal behavior not only indicates which individuals are most likely to persist in engaging in antisocial or aggressive behavior, but can also guide the development of new interventions that target these neurobiological deficits.



Stephanie van Goozen is Professor of Psychology and Director of the Neurodevelopmental Disorder Assessment Unit at Cardiff University, UK. She also holds a position as Professor of Developmental Neuroscience at Leiden University in the Netherlands and is a Visiting Professor at the University of Sussex, UK. Her research field is developmental psychopathology; she studies risk mechanisms underlying antisocial development from infancy onward with the goal of helping to develop more effective prevention and treatment programs. Her research focuses on the individual factors that explain or accentuate risk for those who live with early social adversity. To that end she adopts an interdisciplinary research strategy, combining observational, cognitive-experimental, neuro-endocrinological, psychophysiological, and fMRI/MRI methods. Before moving to Cardiff she worked in the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the University Medical Centre, Utrecht, The Netherlands, and in the Developmental Psychiatry Section of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Cambridge.