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Amber Lauren BeckleyLektor

About me

Amber is a criminologist whose research focuses on how developmental factors influence criminal offending and victimization across the life-course.  Between 2019 and 2022, Amber will be working on the project "Childhood psychosocial and environmental predictors of crime and victimization across life.", funded by a 2.875 mil SEK from Riksbankens Jubileumsfond. 


A selection from Stockholm University publication database

  • Psychosocial Maturation, Race, and Desistance from Crime

    2019. Michael Rocque, Amber L. Beckley, Alex R. Piquero. Journal of Youth and Adolescence 48 (7), 1403-1417


    Research on maturation and its relation to antisocial behavior has progressed appreciably in recent years. Psychosocial maturation is a relatively recent concept of development that scholarship has linked to risky behavior. Psychosocial maturation appears to be a promising explanation of the process of exiting criminal behavior, known as desistance from crime. However, to date, research has not examined whether psychosocial maturation is related to desistance in similar ways across race/ethnicity. Using the Pathways to Desistance Study which followed a mixed-race/ethnicity group of serious adolescent offenders for 7 years, this research tested growth in psychosocial maturation across race/ethnic groups. The sample (14.46% female, average age 15.97 at baseline) was composed of white (n = 250), black (n = 463), and Hispanic (n = 414) individuals. The results showed variation in trajectories of psychosocial maturation with blacks having higher initial levels but slower growth in maturation over time compared to whites. Psychosocial maturation was negatively related to crime across all racial/ethnic groups. Across all racial/ethnic groups, differences in the magnitude of the association between psychosocial maturation and desistance were small. Rather than needing distinct theories for specific groups, psychosocial maturation appears to be a general theoretical perspective for understanding desistance from crime across races/ethnicities. Policy formulation based on psychosocial maturation would, therefore, be applicable across racial/ethnic groups.

    Read more about Psychosocial Maturation, Race, and Desistance from Crime
  • Health and criminal justice system involvement among African American siblings

    2019. Amber L. Beckley (et al.). SSM - Population Health 7



    Health disparities between African Americans and Whites have persisted in the United States. Researchers have recently hypothesized that the relatively poor health of African Americans may be caused, in part, by African American overrepresentation in the criminal justice system.


    To test the hypothesis that criminal justice system involvement is associated with poor health and greater health risk when controlling for unobserved family factors through a discordant sibling design.


    Subjects were drawn from the Carolina African American Twin Study of Aging (CAATSA). Criminal conviction records were extracted from North Carolina’s Department of Public Safety. Six measures of health and one measure of health risk were analyzed. The health of convicted respondents was compared to that of unrelated non-convicted respondents matched on childhood and demographic factors (“matched sample”). Convicted respondents were also compared to non-convicted siblings (“discordant sibling sample”).


    The matched sample included 134 CAATSA respondents. On average, convicted CAATSA respondents, compared to matched non-convicted respondents, were in worse health. Convicted respondents had worse mean self-reported health, worse lung function, more depressive symptoms, and smoked more. The discordant sibling sample included 74 respondents. Convicted siblings and non-convicted siblings had similar self-reported health, depressive symptoms, and smoking. In general, non-convicted siblings were in worse health than non-convicted respondents from the matched sample, implying that poor health runs in families.


    This study provided preliminary evidence that some of the association between a criminal record and poor health is confounded by family factors. Though more research is needed to support these results, the study suggests that criminal involvement may not be associated with the surfeit of health problems observed among African Americans. The criminal justice system, nonetheless, could be used to decrease the health disparity.

    Read more about Health and criminal justice system involvement among African American siblings
  • Association of Childhood Blood Lead Levels With Criminal Offending

    2018. Amber L. Beckley (et al.). JAMA pediatrics 172 (2), 166-173


    Importance  Lead is a neurotoxin with well-documented effects on health. Research suggests that lead may be associated with criminal behavior. This association is difficult to disentangle from low socioeconomic status, a factor in both lead exposure and criminal offending.

    Objective  To test the hypothesis that a higher childhood blood lead level (BLL) is associated with greater risk of criminal conviction, recidivism (repeat conviction), conviction for violent offenses, and variety of self-reported criminal offending in a setting where BLL was not associated with low socioeconomic status.

    Design, Setting, and Participants  A total of 553 individuals participated in a prospective study based on a population-representative cohort born between April 1, 1972, and March 31, 1973, from New Zealand; the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study observed participants to age 38 years (December 2012). Statistical analysis was performed from November 10, 2016, to September 5, 2017.

    Exposures  Blood lead level measured at age 11 years.

    Main Outcomes and Measures  Official criminal conviction cumulative to age 38 years (data collected in 2013), single conviction or recidivism, conviction for nonviolent or violent crime, and self-reported variety of crime types at ages 15, 18, 21, 26, 32, and 38 years.

    Results  Participants included 553 individuals (255 female and 298 male participants) who had their blood tested for lead at age 11 years. The mean (SD) BLL at age 11 years was 11.01 (4.62) μg/dL. A total of 154 participants (27.8%) had a criminal conviction, 86 (15.6%) had recidivated, and 53 (9.6%) had a violent offense conviction. Variety scores for self-reported offending ranged from 0 to 10 offense types at each assessment; higher numbers indicated greater crime involvement. Self-reported offending followed the well-established age-crime curve (ie, the mean [SD] variety of self-reported offending increased from 1.99 [2.82] at age 15 years to its peak of 4.24 [3.15] at age 18 years and 4.22 [3.02] at age 21 years and declined thereafter to 1.10 [1.59] at age 38 years). Blood lead level was a poor discriminator between no conviction and conviction (area under the curve, 0.58). Overall, associations between BLL and conviction outcomes were weak. The estimated effect of BLL was lower for recidivism than for single convictions and lower for violent offending than for nonviolent offending. Sex-adjusted associations between BLL reached statistical significance for only 1 of the 6 self-reported offending outcomes at age 15 years (r = 0.10; 95% CI, 0.01-0.18; P = .02).

    Conclusions and Relevance  This study overcomes past limitations of studies of BLL and crime by studying the association in a place and time where the correlation was not confounded by childhood socioeconomic status. Findings failed to support a dose-response association between BLL and consequential criminal offending.

    Read more about Association of Childhood Blood Lead Levels With Criminal Offending
  • Genetics and Crime

    2018. J. Wertz (et al.). Psychological Science 29 (5), 791-803


    Drawing on psychological and sociological theories of crime causation, we tested the hypothesis that genetic risk for low educational attainment (assessed via a genome-wide polygenic score) is associated with criminal offending. We further tested hypotheses of how polygenic risk relates to the development of antisocial behavior from childhood through adulthood. Across the Dunedin and Environmental Risk (E-Risk) birth cohorts of individuals growing up 20 years and 20,000 kilometers apart, education polygenic scores predicted risk of a criminal record with modest effects. Polygenic risk manifested during primary schooling in lower cognitive abilities, lower self-control, academic difficulties, and truancy, and it was associated with a life-course-persistent pattern of antisocial behavior that onsets in childhood and persists into adulthood. Crime is central in the nature-nurture debate, and findings reported here demonstrate how molecular-genetic discoveries can be incorporated into established theories of antisocial behavior. They also suggest that improving school experiences might prevent genetic influences on crime from unfolding.

    Read more about Genetics and Crime
  • The Developmental Nature of the Victim-Offender Overlap

    2018. Amber L. Beckley (et al.).


    Purpose It is well-established that victims and offenders are often the same people, a phenomenon known as the victim-offender overlap, but the developmental nature of this overlap remains uncertain. In this study, we drew from a developmental theoretical framework to test effects of genetics, individual characteristics, and routine-activity-based risks. Drawing from developmental literature, we additionally tested the effect of an accumulation of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). Methods Data came from the Environmental Risk (E-Risk) Study, a representative UK birth cohort of 2232 twins born in 1994-1995 and followed to age 18 (with 93% retention). Crime victimization and offending were assessed through self-reports at age 18 (but findings replicated using crime records). We used the classical twin study method to decompose variance in the victim-offender overlap into genetic and environmental components. We used logistic regression to test the effects of childhood risk factors. Results In contrast to past twin studies, we found that environment (as well as genes) contributed to the victim-offender overlap. Our logistic regression results showed that childhood low self-control and childhood antisocial behavior nearly doubled the odds of becoming a victim-offender, compared to a victim-only or an offender-only. Each additional ACE increased the odds of becoming a victim-offender, compared to a victim-only or an offender-only, by approximately 12%, pointing to the importance of cumulative childhood adversity. Conclusions This study showed that the victim-offender overlap is, at least partially, developmental in nature and predictable from personal childhood characteristics and an accumulation of many adverse childhood experiences.

    Read more about The Developmental Nature of the Victim-Offender Overlap
  • Adult-onset offenders

    2016. Amber L. Beckley (et al.). Journal of criminal justice 46, 64-81


    Purpose: To describe official adult-onset offenders, investigate their antisocial histories and test hypotheses about their origins. Methods: We defined adult-onset offenders among 931 Dunedin Study members followed to age 38, using criminal-court conviction records. Results: Official adult-onset offenders were 14% of men, and 32% of convicted men, but accounted for only 15% of convictions. As anticipated by developmental theories emphasizing early-life influences on crime, adult-onset offenders' histories of antisocial behavior spanned back to childhood. Relative to juvenile-offenders, during adolescence they had fewer delinquent peers and were more socially inhibited, which may have protected them from conviction. As anticipated by theories emphasizing the importance of situational influences on offending, adult onset offenders, relative to non-offenders, during adulthood more often had schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and alcohol-dependence, had weaker social bonds, anticipated fewer informal sanctions, and self-reported more offenses. Contrary to some expectations, adult-onset offenders did not have high IQ or high socioeconomic-status families protecting them from juvenile conviction. Conclusions: A tailored theory for adult-onset offenders is unwarranted because few people begin crime de novo as adults. Official adult-onset offenders fall on a continuum of crime and its correlates, between official non offenders and official juvenile-onset offenders. Existing theories can accommodate adult-onset offenders.

    Read more about Adult-onset offenders

    2015. Terrie E. Moffitt, Amber Beckley. Criminology (Beverly Hills) 53 (1), 121-126


    In their original article, Burt and Simons (2014) argued that heritability studies should be abandoned because twin and adoption research is a fatally flawed paradigm. They pointed optimistically to epigenetics research as the way forward. In our view, both recommendations are hasty. This commentary will put forward two contrarian opinions. First, twin and adoption studies still have a lot to offer criminologists who seek the social causes of crime. Second, epigenetics research has very little to offer yet for criminologists who seek the social causes of crime.

    Read more about ABANDON TWIN RESEARCH?
  • Age at immigration and crime in Stockholm using sibling comparisons

    2015. Amber L. Beckley. Social Science Research 53, 239-251


    Past Swedish research has shown that immigrants arriving in the receiving country at an older age are less likely to commit crime than immigrants arriving at a younger age. Segmented assimilation theory argues that the family and neighborhood may be important factors affecting how age at immigration and crime are related to one another. This study used population-based register data on foreign-background males from Stockholm to test the effect of age at immigration on crime. Potential confounding from. the family and neighborhood was addressed using variables and modeling strategies. Initial results, using variables to control for confounding, showed that people who immigrated around age 4 were the most likely to be suspected of a crime. When controlling for unmeasured family characteristics, it seemed that a later age at immigration was tied to a lower likelihood of crime, which does not corroborate past research findings. The effect of age at immigration, however, was not statistically significant. The results imply that future research on entire families may be a worthwhile endeavor.

    Read more about Age at immigration and crime in Stockholm using sibling comparisons
  • Deterrence Versus Marginalization

    2015. Amber L. Beckley. Race and Justice 5 (3), 278-300


    Immigration policies that attach citizenship and deportation consequences to crime may be aimed at deterring crime, but they also effectively marginalize immigrants and may promote crime. Evidence from Sweden and around the world indicates that, where citizenship is concerned, marginalization may have won out. This research used a population-based sample of approximately 20,000 Swedish males and more rigorous methods than past studies to test the effects of citizenship and region of origin on official police suspicion for a serious crime. The findings showed that a lack of citizenship is related to greater involvement in crime, indicating support for the marginalizing effects of immigration policies. Yet, the region of origin results presented a conflicting picture in which neither ideas on deterrence nor marginalization could be supported. In conclusion, neither the potential deterrent effects of immigration policy nor its marginalizing effects were strongly supported.

    Read more about Deterrence Versus Marginalization
  • Foreign background and criminal offending among young males in Stockholm

    2015. Amber Beckley (et al.).

    Thesis (Doc)

    This doctoral thesis considers how factors from the home country, the family, and the individual impact the risk for criminal offending among young males from a foreign background residing in Stockholm. I use Swedish register data to examine the risk for police registered suspicion of criminal offending. The introductory chapter presents an historical overview of immigration in Sweden, theories of criminal offending, and details about analysis of register data. It is followed by three empirical studies that consider unique risk factors for crime among children of immigrants while controlling for factors encountered within Sweden. The first study shows that young male children of immigrants do not seem to be inherently violent as a result of coming from a war-torn country. The second study indicates that it is not the age at immigration, but the family situation that seems to dictate criminal propensity. The final study suggests that threats of deportation and stricter immigration policies do not seem to deter criminality. The most interesting result was probably that high home country human development was a protective factor against crime. This is the first known work to uncover such a result. Future theoretical development may be best aimed at unpacking and empirically evaluating the human development index as a risk factor. Together, these three studies suggest that some previously unconsidered uniquely immigrant factors are related to risk for criminality. 

    Read more about Foreign background and criminal offending among young males in Stockholm

Show all publications by Amber Lauren Beckley at Stockholm University