Life-Course Desisters? Trajectories of Crime among Delinquent Boys Followed to Age 70

John H. Laub, National Institute of Justice
Publication Date:
Jan 2003
Published In:
Project Programs:
Future of Work

Linking recently collected data to form what is arguably the longest longitudinal study of crime to date, this paper examines trajectories of offending over the life course of delinquent boys followed from ages 7 to 70. We assess whether there is a distinct offender group whose rates of crime remain stable with increasing age, and whether individual differences, childhood characteristics, and family background can foretell long-term trajectories of offending. On both counts, our results come back negative. Crime declines with age sooner or later for all offender groups, whether identified prospectively according to a multitude of childhood and adolescent risk factors, or retrospectively based on latent-class models of trajectories. We conclude that desistance processes are at work even among active offenders and predicted lifecourse persisters, and that childhood prognoses account poorly for long-term trajectories of offending.


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