Original Paper

Journal of Quantitative Criminology

, Volume 24, Issue 1, pp 1-31

First online:

Analyzing Criminal Trajectory Profiles: Bridging Multilevel and Group-based Approaches Using Growth Mixture Modeling

  • Frauke KreuterAffiliated withJoint Program in Survey Methodology, University of Maryland Email author 
  • , Bengt MuthénAffiliated withUniversity of California

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Over the last 25 years, a life-course perspective on criminal behavior has assumed increasing prominence in the literature. This theoretical development has been accompanied by changes in the statistical models used to analyze criminological data. There are two main statistical modeling techniques currently used to model longitudinal data. These are growth curve models and latent class growth models, also known as group-based trajectory models. Using the well known Cambridge data and the Philadelphia cohort study, this article compares the two “classical” models—conventional growth curve model and group-based trajectory models. In addition, two growth mixture models are introduced that bridge the gap between conventional growth models and group-based trajectory models. For the Cambridge data, the different mixture models yield quite consistent inferences regarding the nature of the underlying trajectories of convictions. For the Philadelphia cohort study, the statistical indicators give stronger guidance on relative model fit. The main goals of this article are to contribute to the discussion about different modeling techniques for analyzing data from a life-course perspective and to provide a concrete step-by-step illustration of such an analysis and model checking.


Latent class growth modeling Growth mixture modeling Zero-inflated Poisson distribution Developmental trajectory groups