Perinatal and sociodemographic factors at birth predicting conduct problems and violence to age 18 years: Comparison of Brazilian and British birth cohorts.


Background: Many low- and middle-income countries have high levels of violence. Research in high-income countries shows that risk factors in the perinatal period are significant precursors of conduct problems which can develop into violence. It is not known whether the same early influences are important in lower income settings with higher rates of violence. This study compared perinatal and sociodemographic risk factors between Brazil and Britain, and their role in explaining higher rates of conduct problems and violence in Brazil. Methods: Prospective population-based birth cohort studies were conducted in Pelotas, Brazil (N = 3,618) and Avon, Britain (N = 4,103). Eleven perinatal and sociodemographic risk factors were measured in questionnaires completed by mothers during the perinatal period. Conduct problems were measured in questionnaires completed by mothers at age 11, and violence in self-report questionnaires completed by adolescents at age 18. Results: Conduct problems were predicted by similar risk factors in Brazil and Britain. Female violence was predicted by several of the same risk factors in both countries. However, male violence in Brazil was associated with only one risk factor, and several risk factor associations were weaker in Brazil than in Britain for both females and males. Almost 20% of the higher risk for conduct problems in Brazil compared to Britain was explained by differential exposure to risk factors. The percentage of the cross-national difference in violence explained by early risk factors was 15% for females and 8% for males. Conclusions: A nontrivial proportion of cross-national differences in antisocial behaviour are related to perinatal and sociodemographic conditions at the start of life. However, risk factor associations are weaker in Brazil than in Britain, and influences in other developmental periods are probably of particular importance for understanding male youth violence in Brazil.