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Developmental criminology. Age, life course and crime. THE DATA Crime rates rise rapidly through adolescence Peak in late teens to early twenties Decline steadily afterwards How does this square with criminological theory?

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age life course and crime
Age, life course and crime
  • THE DATA
    • Crime rates rise rapidly through adolescence
    • Peak in late teens to early twenties
    • Decline steadily afterwards
  • How does this square with criminological theory?
    • Most theories propose that biological, psychological or social factors cause crime
    • Developmental (age-based) theory suggests that different factors may have different effects at different ages
      • When a person begins to commit crime
      • Whether a person continues to commit crime or stops
two explanations for the data criminal propensity and criminal career
Two explanations for the data – criminal propensity and criminal career
  • “Criminal propensity” view – Hirschi and Gottfredson
    • Differences between individuals shape their propensity to commit crime
    • Propensity fairly stable after age 5; may be affected by external circumstances / opportunities
    • As offenders age their numbers stay the same, but they slow down
      • Commit fewer crimes
      • May mature out of crime
  • “Criminal career” view – Blumstein and Cohen
    • Small proportion of offenders commit the majority of crime
    • Different variables may explain behavior at different ages
      • Whether (yes/no) someone commits crime
      • Frequency and duration of criminal activity
    • Number of offenders goes down over time
      • Those who keep offending (become career criminals) commit crimes at the same rate as before
research approaches
Research approaches
  • Criminal propensity -- cross-sectional research
    • Since age/crime relationship does not vary (after age 5) no need to track individuals over time
    • Cross-sectional research
      • Use existing data
      • Compare individuals one time, retrospectively
  • Criminal career -- longitudinal research
    • Follows individuals over time
    • Allows better study of causation
      • Cross-sectional only allows correlation studies
    • Longitudinal establishes order of variables -- which came first
      • Did a factor believed to affect crime (e.g., age, grades in school, etc.) come before changes in offending?
early research findings
Early research findings
  • Criminal propensity
    • Propensity -- number of offenders stable, but they slow down
    • Findings #1 (Rowe et al) -- criminal propensity trait closely resembled the actual distribution of crime in four cities
    • Findings #2 (O’Brien et al) -- Differences in homicide rate for youths between 1960 and 1995
      • explained by high proportion of births to unwed mothers and few resources available to children
      • crime thereafter followed the age-crime curve
  • Criminal career
    • Career -- number of offenders declines over time, but a small pool (career criminals) keeps offending at the same rate
    • Findings (Simons et al) -- changes in parenting, quality of schooling and association with delinquent peers come before changes in behavior
cambridge study piquero et al
Cambridge Study -- Piquero et al.
  • British longitudinal study of 411 males born in 1953
    • Followed 30 years, from 1963 to 1993, ages 10 to 40.
  • Findings (published 2007)
    • By age 40 most had desisted from crime
      • Consistent with criminal propensity position
      • Did not find small subset with permanent high crime rates (note: this was a very small group)
    • Four key variables distinguish between offenders and others
      • Low achievement
      • Poor parental child-rearing
      • Impulsivity
      • Poverty
    • Early prevention crucial
thornberry s interactional theory combines control and social learning
Thornberry’s interactional theory –Combines control and social learning
  • Most theories flawed because unidirectional
    • Thornberry makes them recursive  and time-dependent
  • Controls operating through social constraints are most important
    • Attachment to parents, commitment to school, belief in conventional values
    • An interactive setting where crime is learned, performed and reinforced
    • Association with D’s, adopting D values, engaging in D behavior
  • Delinquent behavior is reciprocal
    • “Delinquency eventually becomes its own cause”
      • Delinquency negatively influences attachment, commitment and belief
  • Few disparities as children age
    • Early adolescence (11-13): None
    • Middle (15-16)
      • Attachment to parents plays smaller role
      • Delinquent values may solidify – gain influence
    • Late (18-20)
      • New control issues in effect
      • Commitment to conventional activity (work, college, military, family, kids)
sampson and laub age graded theory of informal social control
Sampson and Laub –Age-graded theory of informal social control
  • Data from Glueck’s 40-year cohort of 500 D’s and 500 non-D’s
  • Explanation for delinquency centers on family
    • Erratic and harsh discipline
    • Mother’s lack of supervision
    • Parent/child acceptance/rejection
  • Family factors may be influenced by structural variables
    • Low SES, crowding
    • Parent’s criminality
    • Family size and disruption
  • Delinquency “closes doors”
    • Reduces opportunities for positive life changes
    • Reduces likelihood of positive adult social bonds
  • Delinquency best predicts adult criminality, but most delinquents don’t become criminals
    • Interaction between crime & informal social controls continues into adulthood
    • Change of life course (jobs, marriage, new friends) can lead to increased “social capital” and overcome delinquency’s “closed door” effect
    • Developing strong social bonds as an adult reduces likelihood of crime and deviance
tremblay developmental origin of physical aggression
Tremblay - developmental origin ofphysical aggression
  • Concern with preadolescent development
  • Aggression develops in first two years of life
    • Increases substantially from nine months to four years, then rate decreases for most
    • But for a minority the rate keeps increasing
  • Theory: aggression may be innate
    • It’s non-aggression that must be learned
  • Children must learn alternatives when very young
    • Not tolerate physical aggression
    • Reward pro-social behavior
    • Improve ability to delay gratification
    • Improve verbal skills
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