Why Parenting Could be the Most Important Factor in Mitigating Antisocial Behavior

To the average person, teenagers being anti-social seems pretty par for the course. The attitude changes, the physical changes, their suddenly increased need for privacy and independence; Sound familiar? Needless to say, that transition into adolescence can be a bit painful for everyone.

For psychologists, adolescent antisocial tendencies and attitudes may be a risk factor of future criminal behavior (Coutts et al., 2017).

                Before we dive off the deep end, let me just say, I am by no means implying that a teenager you know who skipped family movie night is at immediate risk of grabbing a gun and robbing a bank. Like everything else in psychology, it’s not that simple.

The risk-need-responsivity (RNR) model created by Andrews and Bonta provides a category of eight risk factors that increase the chance an individual will engage in, or re-engage in (recidivism) criminal behavior (Anderson et al., 2018). These eight categories are split into two sub-groupings. The Big Four risk factors are antisocial behavior, antisocial personality, antisocial attitudes (beliefs and values), and associating with an antisocial peer group (Coutts et al., 2017). The aptly named Moderate Four risk factors, named this way because they do not play as much of an influential role on the risk factors of criminal behavior, are family experiences, negative school and/or work experiences, low levels of societal involvement (lack of prosocial involvement), and substance abuse (Anderson et al., 2018).

Those are a lot of potential risk factors.

                The bad news is that there’s more. The good news is, I won’t be addressing them today.

Eight risk factors. Only one that speaks directly about family and parental involvement. However, Andrews and Bonta (along with a vast swath of psychological research on the topic) highlight the benefits of early intervention as a mitigating factor.

Humor me for a minute and reread the eight risk factors that Andrews and Bonta developed. Although only one specifically mentions family experiences, each of these factors can be influenced through active parental involvement.

While some may argue that antisocial behavior also relies heavily on the biology of the child and their predisposed inherited traits, environmental influences also play a significant role in behavior. Each of the eight risk factors, are more or less able to be mitigated through parental involvement.

Cutrin et al. (2017) insist that “research has demonstrated that parenting practices and peer group interact and jointly influence the development of antisocial and delinquent behaviors.”. I would argue that parents can influence who their children associate with, as long as they maintain open communication with their child, and establish an environment of trust in which their child is willing to disclose bad behavior. I would also argue that parents have a significant amount of influence over their children’s prosocial involvement, being able to influence how much or little involvement they have from a young age. With good communication between children and parents, negative school and work experiences can also be intervened in, and toxic situations can be overcome through parent intervention or relocation. Lastly, parental involvement can help reduce the risk of substance abuse and similar harmful behaviors.

I’m not claiming that effective parenting will eradicate the risk of the Central Eight. Instead, I encourage everyone to consider the full-potential that parental involvement could play in mitigating the Central Eight risk factors and what kind of intervention or parental awareness could encourage parents to play a more active part in the children who are potentially at risk.




Anderson, V. R., Campbell, C. A., & Papp, J. (2018). Assessing the Incremental Validity of Andrews and Bonta’s “Moderate Four” Predictors of Recidivism Using a Diverse Sample of Offending and Truant Youth. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology63(6), 854–873. doi: https://doi-org.ezaccess.libraries.psu.edu/10.1177/0306624X18814185.

Coutts, L. M., Gruman, J. A., & Schneider, F. W. (2017). Applied social psychology understanding and addressing social and practical problems (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.

Cutrín, O., Gomez-Fraguela, J. A., Maneiro, L., & Sobral, J. (2017). Effects of parenting practices through deviant peers on nonviolent and violent antisocial behaviours in middle- and late-adolescence. The European Journal of Psychology Applied to Legal Context9(2), 75–82. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ejpal.2017.02.001.

1 comment

  1. Reading your post caused me to consider the difference a anti-social behavior and shyness. I learned that shyness is closer to avoidant personality disorder and even a component of that disorder. Symptoms include being easily hurt by criticism or disapproval, no close friends, reluctance to become involved with people, avoidance of activities or occupations that involve contact with others, shyness in social situations out of fear of doing something wrong, exaggeration of potential difficulties, showing excessive restraint in intimate relationships, feeling socially inept, inferior, or unappealing to other people, and unwillingness to take risks or try new things because they may prove embarrassing.
    Then I read the symptoms of antisocial and realized that I totally mis-interpreted your post! By putting the dash (-) in anti-social at the beginning of you post and your reference to not attending family movie night of your post I thought you were speaking of just not being social and not true antisocial behavior. I need to slow down and read everything before I jump off into my own rabbit hole of research on a topic. Thank your for the post!

Leave a Reply

Skip to toolbar