2016 Stockholm Prize in Criminology Awarded to John Jay College Professor

widom_stockholm_storyNew York, NY, November 10, 2015 – The international jury for the Stockholm Prize in Criminology announced today the winners of the 2016 Stockholm Prize in Criminology. Cathy Spatz Widom, Distinguished Professor of Psychology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, was selected as one of the three winners for her groundbreaking research on the causes and consequences of child abuse and neglect. She shares this top award with Travis Warren Hirschi, emeritus professor of sociology, University of Arizona, and Per-Olof Wikström, professor of ecological and developmental criminology, University of Cambridge. They will receive the prize in Stockholm in June 2016.

The Stockholm Prize in Criminology is the world’s most prestigious award in the field of criminology. The prize has been awarded since 2006, and recognizes outstanding achievements in criminological research or the application of research results by practitioners for the reduction of crime and the advancement of human rights.

Theory and evidence on parenting and peers in juvenile crime prevention is the common thread that connects the three award winners. According to the jury, the Prize recognizes work that stretches over a half-century and three large studies that have strongly shaped modern criminological theory and have focused on the roles of parents and peers. Professor Widom is receiving the prize in recognition of her important advances in understanding the influences on a person’s risk of crime and violence.

“On behalf of my former and current students, postdoctoral fellows, and collaborators, I am truly honored to receive the Stockholm Prize in Criminology for the work that we have been conducting for the past 30 years

on the cycle and intergenerational transmission of violence,” said Dr. Widom, after receiving the news.  “I also want to thank the organizations that have provided support for this research over the years, notably the U.S. National Institute of Justice, National Institutes of Health, and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.”

Dr. Widom was nominated by Jeremy Travis, President of John Jay College; Terrie E. Moffitt, Nannerl Keohane University Professor at Duke University Psychology and Neuroscience; and Britt af Klinteberg, Professor of Psychology at the Stockholm University/Karolinska Institute in Sweden; and the nominating process was coordinated by Preeti Chauhan, Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at John Jay College. The nominating letter notes that Dr. Widom is internationally recognized as an expert in her field, receiving numerous awards, career honors, and grants, and publishing over 100 articles in a wide range of top peer-reviewed journals including in two papers in the journal Science (1989 and 2015).  In 2013, she was the recipient of the American Society of Criminology Edwin H. Sutherland Award.

In expressing his pride and pleasure in this honor for Dr. Widom and for John Jay College, President Travis affirms: “Dr. Widom is a distinctively original and rigorous scholar who has carved out a unique body of knowledge where she is the indisputable pioneer. That is the hallmark of a Stockholm Prize winner!”

The jury states that “Dr. Widom pioneered systematic research on what parents did wrong and how this affected abused or neglected children. In tracking 908 children in 1967-71 in a Midwestern U.S. city who, before the age of 11, had been victims of criminal abuse or neglect by responsible adults in, she compared them to a matched sample of 667 control group children for whom there was no criminal record of abuse or neglect. Over the next two decades, she found that maltreatment of children increased their adult rates of crime and violence, but that most maltreated children had no criminal record as adults. Her evidence suggested a more complex relationship between parents and maltreated children than the conventional “cycle of violence” theory, that violence begets violence—which it did not, in three out of four cases.”

Dr. Widom’s research provides evidence that childhood sexual abuse does not pose a uniquely heightened risk for future arrests for sex crimes. She states: “These results do not provide support for the common belief that being a survivor of childhood sexual abuse carries with it unique increase in the risk for becoming a sex offender, contrary to some public policy and administrative practices of jurisdictions where children may have been stigmatized, placed in restrictive settings, or barred from schools.” They suggest that early intervention programs should target children with a history of physical abuse and neglect.

Dr. Widom serves as the Distinguished Professor of Psychology at John Jay College and as a member of the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. After receiving her Ph.D. from Brandeis University, she taught at Harvard, the Indiana University, and the State University of New York at Albany’s School of Criminal Justice. A Fellow of both the American Society of Criminology and the American Psychological Association, she won the 1989 American Association for the Advancement of Science Behavioral Science Research Prize for her paper on the “cycle of violence.” She is also a member of the Committee on Law and Justice of the National Academies.

About the Stockholm Prize in Criminology: 

The Stockholm Prize in Criminology is an international prize established under the aegis of the Swedish Ministry of Justice and with major contributions from the Torsten Söderberg Foundation. The prize is awarded for outstanding achievements in criminological research or for the application of research results by practitioners for the reduction of crime and the advancement of human rights.

The objectives of the prize are to promote the development of: improved knowledge of the causes of crime at an individual and structural level, more effective and humane public policies for dealing with criminal offenders, greater knowledge of alternative crime prevention strategies inside and outside the judicial system, policies for helping the victims of crime, better ways to reduce the global problem of illegal or abusive practices that may occur in the administration of justice.

The prize was presented for the first time in June 2006 at the City Hall in Stockholm, with the Jerry Lee Foundation as the original donor. The prize ceremony has been held every year since then, always in conjunction with the 3-day Stockholm Criminology Symposium organized by the Swedish National Council on Crime Prevention. It is awarded annually and amounts in 2016 to 1,500,000 SEK ($172,280 USD).