Neurobiology and the development of violence: Common assumptions and controversies

Rolf Loeber, Dustin Pardini

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


This paper addresses four common assumptions and related controversies regarding neurobiological factors explaining violence: (i) scholars often assume stability of individual differences in neurobiological factors pertaining to violence, yet much change occurs in aggression/violence during the life course, (ii) individual differences in aggression/violence reflect one or more underlying mechanisms that are believed to have neurobiological origins, yet there is little agreement about which underlying mechanisms apply best, (iii) the development of aggression/violence to some degree can be explained by social, individual, economic and environmental factors, yet it is unclear to what extent neurobiological factors can explain the escalation to, and desistance from, violence over and above social, individual, economic and environmental factors, and (iv) violence waxes and wanes in society over time, yet the explanation of secular differences in violence by means of neurobiological and other factors is not clear. Longitudinal analyses from the Pittsburgh Youth Study are used to illustrate several of these issues.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2491-2503
Number of pages13
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1503
StatePublished - Aug 12 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Aggression
  • Development
  • Neurobiology
  • Prediction
  • Underlying factors
  • Violence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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