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Criminal Careers - Contemporary Issues And Controversies

offending individual time nagin

Taking the lead from earlier cohort studies, more current research on criminal careers and chronic offenders has centered on the continuing exchange between Blumstein and his associates (Barnett, Blumstein, and Farrington; Blumstein, Cohen, and Farrington, 1988a, 1988b) and Gottfredson and Hirschi (1988, 1990) on the stability of criminal careers over time. To test the validity of the criminal career concept, Barnett, Blumstein, and Farrington proposed a probabilistic model (with the conviction process following a Poisson distribution of rare events) to predict actual offense rates from arrest/conviction rates (Barnett and Lofaso; Blumstein, Farrington, and Moitra). Using the Cambridge Cohort, the researchers generated a model reflecting both individual rates of offending and termination, as well as heterogeneity in the population through the use of multiple parameters of offending. In support of the criminal career paradigm and its implications of both continuity and change in offending, it was found that the Cambridge cohort is comprised of nonoffenders as well as those who were both "occasional" (57 percent of offenders) and "frequent" (43 percent) offenders. In addition, there existed an intermittency in offending, in which periods of criminal activity were interspersed with periods of inactivity (possibly related to such factors as incarceration). A more dynamic view of offending, including both stability and change within criminal careers, was supported.

Sampson and Laub's age-graded theory of informal social control allows for both stability and change in behavioral trajectories such as offending over time. Sampson and Laub hypothesize that shifting social bonds to individuals and institutions (e.g., family, education, work) over the life-course cause an individual to either persist or desist in his/her offending. While life events such as marriage may increase ties to conventional society (Laub, Nagin, and Sampson) or decrease an individual's association with delinquent peers (Warr), therefore decreasing offending, failure to make such transitions may cause an individual to persist in offending.

Sampson and Laub make three major theoretical assertions: (1) the structural context of family and school social controls explains delinquency in childhood and adolescence; (2) this leads to a continuity in antisocial behavior from childhood through adulthood across many social domains; and (3) social bonds in adulthood to institutions such as family and employment explain changes in criminal behavior over the life-course, despite early criminal propensity. Sampson and Laub's developmental model acknowledges the potential for both stability and change in criminal behavior over time. While other psychologically oriented models of individual criminal behavior provide a more static view of criminality within the individual over time (e.g., Gottfredson and Hirschi, 1990), the age-graded theory of social control allows for the possibility of changes in behavior fluctuating with changing levels of attachment or social bonding over time. At the population level, decreasing levels of offending at later ages are attributed to the termination in offending behavior of some, coupled with the persistence in offending behavior of others. While Sampson and Laub note that "there is considerable evidence that antisocial behavior is relatively stable across stages of the life-course," there also are many opportunities for the links in the "chain of adversity" to be broken over time (pp. 11, 15).

The most prominent of the "static" or "continuity" theories of crime is Gottfredson and Hirschi's (1990) self-control theory of crime. Gottfredson and Hirschi (1988, 1990) assert that both crime and criminality are stable across the life-course and that a singular underlying individual characteristic, self-control, is predictive of offending behavior. Self-control is established early in life (before the age of eight) and is related to parental child-rearing techniques. Those parents who are able to consistently and fairly discipline children and teach them to resist impulsive behavior will instill in their children a high level of self-control. Across the lifespan, an individual's level of self-control will remain stable but can manifest itself in many different ways. Childhood antisocial behavior, adolescent and adult criminality, problem drinking, excessive speeding, or any other impulsive or deviant activity could be traced back to low levels of self-control. Gottfredson and Hirschi (1990) attribute decreasing levels of offending at later ages in the age-crime curve to a gradual "aging-out" of all offenders, reflective of relative stability over time, as opposed to the termination of offending by some. Support for the existence of an underlying latent trait predictive of continuity in offending has been found by those such as Greenberg and Rowe, Osgood, and Nicewander.

Debates between those advocating a more dynamic versus a static view of offending behavior have spawned a related question on the relationship of past to future offending: Does prior offending have a subsequent causal impact on future offending or do time-stable individual differences cause persistence in offending over time? This question, framed in terms of the existence of either state dependence or persistent heterogeneity, has been advanced by Nagin and his colleagues (Nagin and Farrington, 1992a, 1992b; Nagin and Paternoster, 1991). State dependence implies that the commission of a crime may raise the probability that an individual will commit a subsequent crime. According to state dependence, prior participation in offending has an "actual behavioral effect" (Nagin and Paternoster, p. 163) on subsequent offending (a dynamic approach). On the other hand, population heterogeneity implies that past and future offending are related only inasmuch as they are both related to an unmeasured criminal propensity that is stable over time within the individual (a static approach). Mixed conclusions have been drawn from this vein of research—support has been found for both the hypotheses of state-dependence (Nagin and Farrington, 1992a; Nagin and Paternoster) and population heterogeneity (Loeber and Snyder; Nagin and Farrington, 1992a, 1992b).

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about 7 years ago

here is your second paper source reference