Male and Female Delinquency Trajectories from Pre through Middle Adolescence and Their Continuation in Late Adolescence
Landsheer, Johannes A., van Dijkum, C., Adolescence
The age-crime curve, with delinquency peaking during middle adolescence, has been well documented in numerous studies (Hirschi & Gottfredson, 1983; Shavit & Rattner, 1988; Steffensmeier, Allan, Harer, & Streifel, 1989; Steffensmeier & Streifel, 1991; Tittle & Ward, 1993). In general, the rate of previous offenses predicts the rate of later offenses and, in this sense, a relatively stable pattern of offending seems to exist (Overbeek, Vollebergh, Meeus, Engels, & Luijpers, 2001). Cross-sectional studies also show that adolescent delinquency diminishes after the age of 16; i.e., late adolescents frequently refrain from delinquency. Of course, individual trajectories can vary widely from the general pattern, and we must ask how normal developmental trajectories and criminal careers can be differentiated. In this respect, Farrington (1999) posed two key questions: "How far can we predict the later criminal career from the early criminal career? How are different criminal career features (e.g., age of onset, duration, frequency of offending) interrelated?" (p. 155).
Moffitt (1993) distinguishes groups of delinquents with different types of careers, more specifically life-course-persistent antisocial behavior, and adolescence-limited delinquency. The small group of consistent delinquents are at risk for continuation of their delinquent activities, while the adolescence-only delinquents are more likely to desist from further delinquent activities during late adolescence and early adulthood. Patterson, DeBaryshe, and Ramsey (1989), Loeber (1990), Moffitt (1993), Moffit, Caspi, Dickson, Silva, and Stanton (1996) have all pointed to the importance of early, pre-adolescent onset of delinquency as a distinctive feature of persistent criminality. From this thesis of early-childhood-onward chronic offenders, it follows that a group of offenders can be identified who are frequently involved in delinquency throughout adolescence. Later onset of delinquency seems to reflect a temporary disposition, and thus a higher probability of refraining from delinquency and desistance during further development. It should be noted, however, that the thesis of early-childhoodonward chronic offenders has been formulated on the basis of data from male offenders only.
Recent research by Laub, Nagin, and Sampson (1998) and Nagin (1999) has focused on the discrimination of developmental trajectories of delinquents using the data from three longitudinal studies (Glueck & Glueck, 1950; Farrington & West, 1993; Tremblay, Desmarais-Gervais, Gaspon, & Charlebois, 1987). The groups in these studies were formed on the basis of a special analysis of the available longitudinal delinquency data, using a nonparametric mixed Poisson model which takes behavior changes into account. Laub et al. (1998) used the Glueck and Glueck (1950) data to study desistance and found that the chronic offenders showed a rapid rise in delinquency during adolescence with a relatively high rate from middle adolescence on. The groups of nonchronic offenders also peaked during middle adolescence but had considerably lower levels in late adolescence and early adulthood when compared to the chronic groups. According to Laub et al. (1998) "Conditional upon having a juvenile record, the intensity of adolescent delinquency seems to be only moderately predictive of eventual desistance" (p. 232).
Nagin (1999) analyzed Farrington and West's data from Cambridge (Farrington & West, 1993) and Tremblay et al. (1987) data from Montreal. Although the Cambridge data reflect the age-crime curve, in the Montreal data Nagin found that the chronic offenders show a relatively constant level of physical aggression, without a clear increase during middle adolescence. The Cambridge data show low rates of delinquency before the age of 12. In contrast, the Montreal sample shows a different pattern, with relatively high levels for all groups at younger ages on the psychometric scale of physical aggression. There may be various reasons for these differences: cohort differences, the measurement instruments (official data versus psychometry), and the object of measurement (convictions versus physical aggression). Nevertheless, in both samples the small group of chronic offenders has a much higher rate of delinquency than the rest of the sample. These chronic delinquents have a low chance of desisting from criminal activities in late adolescence and adulthood.
Two demographic variables appear to be important for the explanation of juvenile delinquency: age and sex. According to Hirschi and Gottfredson (1983), however, "the age distribution of crime cannot be accounted for by any variable or combination of variables currently available to criminology" (p. 554), and this statement has generated considerable debate (Baldwin, 1984; Hirschi & Gottfredson, 1984; Tittle, 1988; Gottfredson & Hirschi, 1988). Shavit and Rattner (1988) have presented data that confirm Hirschi and Gottfredson's position, while Tittle and Ward (1993) have also provided some support.
Analysis of the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports by Steffensmeier et al. (1989, 1991) show the age distributions for such crimes as fraud and gambling differ strongly from the age distributions for burglary and vandalism, suggesting that the age distributions may be behavior specific. More specially, Stefensmeier et al. (1989) found that the age curves for such lucrative delinquent activities as gambling peak much later than the age curves for other delinquent activities, and also do not tend to decline.
With regard to the effect of gender on crime, Gottfredson and Hirschi (1990) have asserted that gender differences appear to be invariant across time and space and that males invariably commit more offenses than females. Self-report studies also show this disproportionality to be consistently greater the more serious the offense (Adler, Mueller, & Laufer, 1998). Steffensmeier (1993) reports evidence that the most significant change in the percentage of female arrests involves the overall rise in property Crimes, especially minor theft and fraud, showing that female arrests have increased and are therefore less invariable than has been assumed.
Female delinquency seems to have increased more sharply than male delinquency during the past two decades (Hoyt & Scherer, 1998), and the attention paid to female delinquency has increased. Katz (2000) asserts that such traditional theories as strain theory are better suited to the explanation of male than female delinquent behavior. Hoyt and Scherer (1998) conclude their extensive review with the statement that the research results for female delinquency are not conclusive. Evidently, there are large differences between males and females with respect to delinquency. Females are less frequently arrested for criminal activities (Hoyt & Scherer, 1998). Even though some research indicates that females report the committing of less serious crimes as often as males (Hoyt & Scherer, 1998), they commit serious crimes less frequently (Kruttschitt, 1966), they are less frequently involved in violent crimes (Weiner, 1989; Kruttschnitt, 1966), …
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Publication information: Article title: Male and Female Delinquency Trajectories from Pre through Middle Adolescence and Their Continuation in Late Adolescence. Contributors: Landsheer, Johannes A. - Author, van Dijkum, C. - Author. Journal title: Adolescence. Volume: 40. Issue: 160 Publication date: Winter 2005. Page number: 729+. © 1999 Libra Publishers, Inc. COPYRIGHT 2005 Gale Group.
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