Late Onset Offending and Substance Use: Findings from the NYSFS

By Kristen L. Welch | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 1
The Ambiguity of Late Onset

INTRODUCTION

To date, very little attention has been paid to late onset offending and substance use. Understanding age at onset is a critical aspect of understanding the course of substance use and offending across the life course. The literature on criminal offending and substance use points to the importance of age at onset in predicting the duration and intensity of these behaviors (Blumstein, Farrington, & Moitra, 1985, Farrington, 1973; Farrington & Hawkins, 1991; Farrington, 2003; Kazemian & Farrington, 2005; LeBlanc & Frechette, 1989; Loeber & LeBlanc, 1990; Thornberry, 2005). Research also points to the importance of delayed or later onset on the duration of criminal careers (Farrington et al., 1990; Farrington et al., 2006; Harris, 2010; Thornberry, 2005; Van Koppen, De Poot, Kleemans, & Nieuwbeerta, 2010). While there has been a great deal of research on early onset and its link to duration of problem substance use and criminal offending over the life course, very little of the research on age of onset has focused on late onset.

As noted by Eggleston and Laub (2002, p. 64), “criminologists often call for more research on late onset, but few studies have systematically investigated the phenomenon.” A few researchers point to the possibility of onset as late as adulthood (Eggleston & Laub, 2002; Farrington et al., 2006; Gomez-Smith & Piquero, 2005; Harris, 2010; Polk, 1981; Sampson & Laub, 1990; Thornberry, 2005; Van Koppen et al., 2010; Zara & Farrington, 2009). While some researchers discount the legitimacy of adult onset, others contend that as much as 50 percent of adult offenders began offending in adulthood (Eggleston & Laub, 2002; Glueck & Glueck, 1968; Janson, 1983;

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