Explanatory risk factors for violence, offending, and delinquency in adolescents

This document was published more than 2 years ago. The nature of the evidence may have changed.

The Social Services in Sweden carry out fieldwork focusing on adolescents. Their task is to, among other things, identify young people at risk for future social problems [1]. A part of this is to identify risk factors and protective factors in order to find corresponding treatments.


What risk factors and protective factors are central for preventative action against externalized and internalized problems in youths between the ages of 12 and 18?

Table with identified studies

Table 1. Systematic reviews with low/medium risk of bias
Included studies Risk and protective factors
Farrington (2016) [2]
42 systematic reviews were included in the analysis: 11 concerned with crime or violence, 7 with delinquency or youth violence, 8 with sex offending, and 16 with dating or intimate partner violence.
20 systematic reviews had metanalyses
20 Systematic reviews with meta-analyses:

Crime and violence (7)
broken home, child rearing, discipline, socioeconomic status, family size, family stress, home discord, child maltreatment, parent antisocial behaviour, urban housing, parental warmth empathy versus offending, cognitive empathy, affective empathy, early childhood family structure, early childhood adverse family environment, parental incarceration, attachment security, maternal cigarette smoking

Delinquency (4) school/employment, family parental support, authoritative control, physical punishment inconsistent discipline physical or sexual abuse, high IQ, moral judgment
Authors' conclusion:
More systematic reviews and meta-analyses of risk factors are needed to advance knowledge. It is highly desirable to have reviews of longitudinal studies, reviews that focus on explanatory risk factors, and reviews that report both overall effect sizes and effect sizes after controlling for other risk factors. These types of reviews should significantly advance knowledge about possible causal risk factors for violence, offending and delinquency.


  1. Socialtjänstlagen. (2001:453).
  2. Farrington DP, Gaffney H, Ttofi MM. Systematic reviews of explanatory risk factors for violence, offending, and delinquency. Aggression and Violent Behavior. 2017;33:24-36.

SBU Enquiry Service Consists of structured literature searches to highlight studies that can address questions received by the SBU Enquiry Service from Swedish healthcare or social service providers. We assess the risk of bias in systematic reviews and when needed also quality and transferability of results in health economic studies. Relevant references are compiled by an SBU staff member, in consultation with an external expert when needed.

Published: 9/2/2019
Report no: ut201918
Registration no: SBU 2018/567