Understanding Desistance from Juvenile Offending

John H. Laub and Sarah L. Boonstoppel

in The Oxford Handbook of Juvenile Crime and Juvenile Justice

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780195385106
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Understanding Desistance from Juvenile Offending

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  • Criminology and Criminal Justice
  • Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice



This article reviews the current state of knowledge and perspectives on desistance from juvenile offending. It begins by locating juvenile delinquency and desistance within the context of adolescent development and then describes the conceptual and methodological challenges of studying desistance from juvenile offending. There is a small but growing body of research focusing on desistance during adolescence. The review of literature reflects that rather than pathological or abnormal behavior, delinquency is a normative aspect of adolescent development. Finally, the article highlights some of the gaps in both theory and research on desistance during adolescence, and offers suggestions for how juvenile justice policy might benefit from desistance research. What is required is to think of ways to restructure people's response to juvenile delinquency, especially by the formal system of justice, in order to allow for the possibility of desistance from crime and other behavioral change to take effect.

Keywords: juvenile offending; delinquency; juvenile justice policy; desistance research; behavioral change

Article.  9669 words. 

Subjects: Criminology and Criminal Justice ; Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice

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