Change in Offending across the Life Course

Christopher J. Sullivan

in The Oxford Handbook of Criminological Theory

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199747238
Published online December 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 Change in Offending across the Life Course

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  • Criminology and Criminal Justice
  • Theories of Crime


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Over the past twenty years, the developmental, life-course framework has emerged as an important means of understanding crime and delinquency. A number of studies tend to focus more on factors that contribute to onset and continuance of criminal careers than their stoppage. Some argue that criminology has fixated too much on trying to elucidate longitudinal offending patterns as series of preordained events playing out over time based on exogenous individual differences. Research has identified a good deal of stability in antisocial behavior and its underlying causes across portions of offenders' lives, along with a fair degree of within-individual change. In 2001, John H. Laub and Robert J. Sampson suggested that desistance, the primary indicator of change in criminal behavior, is the modal pattern in individual offending careers. That observation has become the basis for an empirical benchmark used to evaluate theoretical explanations for offending over the life course. This article highlights ways that developmental, life-course criminologists might enhance their understanding of change.

Keywords: change; offending; life course; criminology; criminal careers; delinquency; crime; desistance; John H. Laub; Robert J. Sampson

Article.  9469 words. 

Subjects: Criminology and Criminal Justice ; Theories of Crime

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