Childhood predictors of adolescent offending careers were studied in 310 boys from the longitudinal Pittsburgh Youth Study who started offending prior to age 12. Three main groups were distinguished: serious persisters (n = 95), moderately serious persisters (n = 117), desisters (n = 63), and an intermittent group (n = 35). Group membership was predicted using risk and promotive factors measured in childhood. Serious and moderately serious persisters could be distinguished well from desisters (29.2% and 32.3% explained variance). Distinction between the two persister groups proved somewhat more difficult (20.9% explained variance). More serious persisters than desisters showed disruptive behavior, while moderately serious persisters fell in between. Further, more moderately serious persisters were marked by social disadvantage. Family involvement, small family and positive peer relationships were promotive of desistance. Concluding, early onset offenders show considerable heterogeneity in their adolescent offending careers which seem to some extent to be predicted by different sets of risk and promotive factors.
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