Young offenders caught in the act: A population-based cohort study comparing internationally adopted and non-adopted adolescents

Joost R. van Ginkel*, Femmie Juffer, Marian J. Bakermans-Kranenburg, Marinus H. van Jzendoorn

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Empirical research has shown an elevated risk for externalizing behavior problems in international adoptees. To address the extent to which this risk exists for more serious externalizing problems we compared the rates of registered criminal offending of internationally adopted adolescents with those of non-adopted adolescents in the Netherlands. In a large population-based cohort study (N = 3,758,506 including n = 10,563 international adoptees) on Dutch youth with ages up to 19 years we examined registrations in the program on juvenile crime and in the national police system from 2005 to 2013. Controlling for time lapse and background variables we found that international adoptees had been in contact with the criminal justice system more frequently than non-adoptees. However, the findings differed across region of adoption: Adoptees from South America and from Africa had been in contact with the criminal justice system most frequently (and more often than non-adoptees), whereas adoptees from China (total n = 4569) had the least contacts (and less often than non-adoptees). The percentages of criminal offending of adoptees ranged between 1.16% and 15.83% across regions of adoption (versus 10.86% in non-adoptees). The large majority of adoptees – including those from South America and Africa – were not involved in criminal acts. We hypothesize that the higher and lower risks of criminal offending found for adoptees from certain countries are associated with the varying levels of pre-adoption adversity (e.g., neglect and abuse) that the adoptees have experienced.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)32-41
Number of pages10
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
Early online date9 Oct 2018
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018



  • Adolescents
  • Cohort study
  • Criminal offending
  • International adoption

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