Systems of Adversity, Psychological Distress, and Criminality

Aurelio José Figueredo, Mateo Peñaherrera-Aguirre, Steven Charles Hertler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


An attempted exercise in consilience, this study approaches adversity, psychological distress, and criminality from a systemic perspective, synthesizing literature from Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Theory, Life History Theory, and various markers of trauma and instability treated within the Adverse Childhood Experiences literature. Analyzing 2,761 women, a subset of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, a sequential canonical cascade model was used to model the hypothesized causal order of events, derived from these theories, culminating in psychological distress and criminality.More specifically, we construct, test, and report a cascade model that traces the progression of developmental influences, beginning with childhood environmental harshness and instability expressed within Bronfenbrenner’s mesosystem and microsystem, and leading to later levels of life history speed, criminal behavior, and psychological distress. Thereafter, in addition to discussing alternative models that interchange the hypothesized causal orderof psychological distress and criminality,we also reviewmore straightforwardly genetic alternative hypotheses that potentially explain or qualify the developmental explanations of psychological distress and criminality herein reviewed and tested.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalEvolutionary Behavioral Sciences
StateAccepted/In press - 2023


  • Adaptive Calibration Model
  • AddHealth data
  • Adverse Childhood Experiences model
  • cascade modeling
  • ecological systems theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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