Understanding Desistance from Crime

  • Laub J
  • Sampson R
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Abstract

The study of desistance from crime is hampered by definitional, measurement, and theoretical incoherence. A unifying framework can distinguish termination of offending from the process of desistance. Termination is the point when criminal activity stops and desistance is the underlying causal process. A small number of factors are sturdy correlates of desistance (e.g., good marriages, stable work, transformation of identity, and aging). The processes of desistance from crime and other forms of problem behavior appear to be similar. Several theoretical frameworks can be employed to explain the process of desistance, including maturation and aging, developmental, life-course, rational choice, and social learning theories. A life-course perspective provides the most compelling framework, and it can be used to identify institutional sources of desistance and the dynamic social processes inherent in stopping crime.

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Authors

  • John H. Laub

  • Robert J. Sampson

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