Biosocial foundations of externalizing behaviors

Authored by: Lisabeth F. DiLalla , Kyle Bersted

The Routledge International Handbook of Biosocial Criminology

Print publication date:  December  2014
Online publication date:  December  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415722131
eBook ISBN: 9781315858449
Adobe ISBN: 9781317936749


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The etiology of externalizing problem behaviors has been a fundamental concern for researchers and professionals dealing with these problems. Many studies have examined family and peer factors that increase the likelihood of children engaging in these types of behavior, and a number of factors have been identified, such as harsh or overly permissive parenting (Patterson et al., 1992; Moffitt and Caspi, 2001; Derringer et al., 2010) and delinquent behaviors among peers (Farrington et al., 2011). However, over the past several decades behavior genetic studies have identified the importance of biological factors as well for externalizing problem behaviors. Thus many researchers have moved to adopt an explanatory approach that includes aspects of both the environment and one’s biology. As with all extremely complicated behaviors, there are a myriad possible explanatory factors, and they work in concert with each other to produce various outcomes. Additionally, there are a number of behaviors that fall under the umbrella of “externalizing” problems, and it is likely that they differ in terms of etiology. Thus a complex theoretical explanation is necessary that incorporates both biological and environmental factors. Biosocial theory is one such explanation that has been used with success in helping to pinpoint certain explanatory factors and to provide a foundation for understanding how these factors interact to produce various behaviors.

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