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A Life-Course View of the Development of Crime

Robert J. Sampson and John H. Laub
The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science
Vol. 602, Developmental Criminology and Its Discontents: Trajectories of Crime from Childhood to Old Age (Nov., 2005), pp. 12-45
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25046139
Page Count: 34
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A Life-Course View of the Development of Crime
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Abstract

In this article, the authors present a life-course perspective on crime and a critique of the developmental criminology paradigm. Their fundamental argument is that persistent offending and desistance-or trajectories of crime-can be meaningfully understood within the same theoretical framework, namely, a revised age-graded theory of informal social control. The authors examine three major issues. First, they analyze data that undermine the idea that developmentally distinct groups of offenders can be explained by unique causal processes. Second, they revisit the concept of turning points from a time-varying view of key life events. Third, they stress the overlooked importance of human agency in the development of crime. The authors' life-course theory envisions development as the constant interaction between individuals and their environment, coupled with random developmental noise and a purposeful human agency that they distinguish from rational choice. Contrary to influential developmental theories in criminology, the authors thus conceptualize crime as an emergent process reducible neither to the individual nor the environment.

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