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BackgroundThere is currently insufficient understanding of the health and behavior of children whose parents engage in criminal behavior. We examined associations between parental criminal convictions and wide range of offspring health, behavioral, and social outcomes by age 18 in a large, national sample, aiming to get a comprehensive picture of the risks among children of offending parents.MethodsWe studied 1,013,385 individuals born in Sweden between 1987 and 1995, and their parents. Using data from several longitudinal nationwide registers, we investigated parental convictions and 85 offspring outcomes until the end of 2013, grouped into birth‐related conditions, psychiatric and somatic disorders, accidents and injuries, mortality, school achievement, violent victimization, and criminality. Cox proportional hazards regression and logistic regression models were used to examine the associations. The role of genetic factors in intergenerational associations was studied in children‐of‐siblings analyses. We also examined the co‐occurrence of multiple outcomes using Poisson regression.ResultsA total of 223,319 (22.0%) individuals had one parent convicted and 31,241 (3.1%) had both parents convicted during the first 18 years of their life. The strongest associations were found between parental convictions and offspring behavioral problems, substance use disorders, poor school achievement, violent victimization, and criminality, with an approximately 2 to 2.5‐fold increased risk in children with one convicted parent and 3‐ to 4‐fold increased risk in children with two convicted parents. The risks were particularly elevated among children of incarcerated parents with a history of violent convictions. The associations appeared to be at least partly explained by genetic influences. Parental convictions were also associated with an increased likelihood of experiencing multiple outcomes.ConclusionsOur findings help to calibrate the risks of a wide range of adverse outcomes associated with parental convictions and may be used to guide prevention efforts and identify key areas for future research.

Original publication




Journal article


Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry



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