Amber Beckley. Foto: Leila Zoubir/Stockholms universitet

Amber Beckley


Visa sidan på svenska
Works at Department of Sociology
Visiting address Universitetsvägen 10 B, plan 9
Room B 846
Postal address Sociologiska institutionen, Demografiska avdelningen 106 91 Stockholm

About me

Amber is a criminologist whose research focuses on how developmental factors influence criminal offending across the life-course. Amber is currently a SPaDE research fellow working on a project on crime and family dissolution.




Moffitt, TE & Beckley, AL (2015). Abandon twin research? Embrace epigenetic research? Premature advice for criminologistsCriminology, 53(1), 121-126.

Beckley, AL (2015). Deterrence versus marginalization: Evidence from immigrant offendingRace and Justice, doi: 10.1177/2153368714568354

Beckley, AL, Kardell, J, Sarnecki, (2015). Immigration and crime in Sweden, in Pickering, S & Ham, J (eds.) The Routledge Handbook on Crime and International Migration, pp. 41-54.

Beckley, AL, Kuja-Halkola, R, Lundholm, Långstrom, N, Frisell, T (2014). Association of height and violent criminality: Results from a Swedish total population studyInternational Journal of Epidemiology, 43(4), 835-842, doi: 10.1093/ije/dyt274

Beckley, AL (2013). Correlates of war? Towards an understanding of nativity-based variation in immigrant OffendingEuropean Journal of Crimnology, 10(4), 408-423. 


A selection from Stockholm University publication database
  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 2015. Amber Beckley (et al.).

    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. 

Show all publications by Amber Beckley at Stockholm University

Last updated: September 28, 2018

Bookmark and share Tell a friend