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Chapter Nine:. Developmental Theories: Life Course and Latent Trait. Developmental Theory. The view that criminality is a dynamic process, influenced by social experiences as well as individual characteristics

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chapter nine

Chapter Nine:

Developmental Theories:

Life Course and Latent Trait

developmental theory
Developmental Theory
  • The view that criminality is a dynamic process, influenced by social experiences as well as individual characteristics
  • Developmental factors include biological, social, and psychological structures and processes
  • Attempts to provide a more global vision of a criminal career encompassing its onset, continuation, and termination
  • Difference between this theory and many others is that it attempts to explain what prompts one person to engage in persistent criminal activity while another finds a way to steer clear of crime
questions of developmental theory
Questions of Developmental Theory
  • Why do people begin committing antisocial acts?
  • Why do some stop while others continue?
  • Why do some escalate the severity of their criminality while others deescalate and commit less serious crimes as they mature?
  • What causes people to begin to commit crime again once they have stopped?
  • Why do some criminals specialize?
life course theories
Life Course Theories
  • Views that criminality is a dynamic process
  • Individual characteristics, traits, and social experiences influence this process
  • Theoretical views studying changes in criminal offending patterns over a person’s entire life
  • As people travel through their life course they are exposed to perceptions and experiences and thus their behavior may change as well
  • Considered integrated theories
life course concepts
Life Course Concepts
  • Problem Behavior Syndrome (PBS)
  • Pathways to crime
  • Age of onset/Continuity of Crime
  • Adolescent-limited and life-course persisters
problem behavior syndrome pbs
Problem Behavior Syndrome (PBS)
  • A cluster of antisocial behaviors which may include:
    • Family dysfunction
    • Sexual and physical abuse
    • Substance abuse
    • Smoking
    • Precocious sexuality and early pregnancy
    • Educational underachievement
    • Suicide attempts
    • Sensation seeking
    • Unemployment
    • Crime
pathways to crime
Pathways to Crime
  • Authority conflict pathway
    • Path to a criminal career that begins with early stubborn behavior that leads to defiance and ultimately authority avoidance
  • Covert pathway
    • Path to a criminal career that begins with minor underhanded behavior that leads to property damage and eventually escalates to more serious forms of criminality
  • Overt pathway
    • Path to a criminal career that escalates to aggressive acts, leading to physical fighting and eventually escalates to violent crime
age of onset continuity of crime
Age of Onset/Continuity of Crime
  • The earlier the onset of criminality, the more frequent, varied, and sustained the criminal career
  • Poor parental discipline and monitoring are keys to the early onset of criminality
  • Continuity and desistance
    • Poor parental discipline and monitoring are a key to the early onset of criminality
  • Gender and desistance
    • For males early antisocial behavior is linked to later problems at work and involvement with drugs
    • For females early antisocial behavior is linked to relationship problems, depression, tendency to commit suicide
adolescent limited and life course persisters
Adolescent-Limited and Life-Course Persisters
  • Adolescent limited offender
    • Considered “typical teenagers”
    • Engage in rebellious teenage behavior
    • They eventually reduce their offending around 18
  • Life course persistent offender
    • Begin their offending at a very early age
    • Continue to offend well into adulthood
    • A small group of offenders
age graded theory
Age-Graded Theory
  • Individual traits and childhood experiences are important to understand the onset of delinquent and criminal behavior
    • They alone cannot explain the continuity of crime into adulthood
  • Experiences in young adulthood and beyond can redirect criminal paths
  • Repeat negative experiences create cumulative disadvantage
  • Positive life experiences can help a person become reattached to society (social capital)
  • Delinquents can choose to “go straight”
  • Find more conventional paths more beneficial and rewarding
factors that increase the likelihood of criminality
Factors That Increase the Likelihood of Criminality
  • Weak social bonds
  • Accumulation of deviant peers
  • Labeling by the justice system
  • Unemployment or underemployment
  • Long-term exposure to poverty
latent trait theories
Latent Trait Theories
  • Some people have a personal attribute or characteristic that controls their inclination or propensity to commit crime
  • This disposition is often called the “latent trait”
  • It may be present at birth or established early in life
  • Though the propensity to commit crime is stable, the opportunity to commit crime fluctuates over time
latent traits
Latent Traits
  • Defective intelligence
  • Damaged or impulsive personality
  • Genetic abnormalities
  • Physical-chemical functioning of the brain
  • Environmental influences on brain function
types of latent trait theories
Types of Latent Trait Theories
  • Crime and human nature
    • Personal traits may outweigh the importance of social variables as predictors of criminal activity
    • Traits influence the crime-noncrime choice
  • General theory of crime (self-control theory)
    • The most prominent latent trait theory
    • Shifted focus from social control to self control
      • The view that the cause of delinquent behavior is an impulsive personality
      • Those who are impulsive may find that their bond to society is weak
analysis of the general crime theory
Analysis of the General Crime Theory
  • Explains why some people who lack self-control can escape criminality and why some might not escape
  • Some criticisms that remain unanswered
    • Tautological
    • Different classes of criminals
    • Ecological differences
    • Racial and gender differences
    • Moral beliefs
    • Peer influence
    • People change
    • Effective parenting
    • Modest relationship
    • Cross-cultural differences
    • Misreads human nature
    • One of many causes
    • Some criminals are not impulsive
policy implications of developmental theories
Policy Implications of Developmental Theories
  • Multi-systematic treatment efforts designed to provide at-risk youth with personal, social, educational, and family services
  • SMART
  • Fast Track
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