Explanations for Offending

Terence P. Thornberry, Peggy C. Giordano, Christopher Uggen, Mauri Matsuda, Ann S. Masten, Erik Bulten and Andrea G. Donker

in From Juvenile Delinquency to Adult Crime

Published in print June 2012 | ISBN: 9780199828166
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199951208 | DOI:
Explanations for Offending

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This chapter discusses the current theoretical models that have been developed to explain criminal offending during the transition years between adolescence and adulthood. The chapter first identifies the key aspects of offending that typify the transition years, including desistance from delinquency, persistence in offending from adolescence to adulthood, and late onset offending. The chapter then reviews how major theories of delinquency and crime attempt to explain these divergent patterns of offending. In particular, it discusses static or population heterogeneity models, dynamic or state dependence models, social psychological theories, the developmental psychopathology perspective, and, finally, biopsychosocial theory. In each case the chapter discusses the theory’s assumptions and core propositions with a particular focus on propositions concerning offending during early adulthood. The chapter also reviews the empirical literature that has tested each of these theories. Although there are is considerable overlap across these different theoretical perspectives, each offers a unique perspective about how the transition from adolescence to adulthood influences offending and how, in turn, offending influences the timing and success of the transition to adulthood. It closes by discussing policy implications of these different theoretical orientations.

Keywords: theory; developmental/life-course; population heterogeneity; state dependence; social psychology; developmental psychopathology; biopsychosocial perspective; desistance; late bloomers

Chapter.  18556 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Social Theory

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