, Volume 37, Issue 4, pp 431-444
Date: 14 Mar 2007

Continuity and Changes in the Developmental Trajectories of Criminal Career: Examining the Roles of Timing of First Arrest and High School Graduation

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


Early onset of criminal career is one of the most robust predictors of persistence in offending. However, many antisocial children do not become chronic adult offenders. Using longitudinal data of young male offenders in the California Youth Authority, we examined trajectories of criminal behavior from childhood to adulthood. We particularly focused on the main and interaction effects of age at their first arrest and completion of high school education. First, we found that, on average, cumulative crime trajectory was curvilinear, with a subtle increase in childhood followed by a rapid increase in late adolescence and a slow down in adulthood. Second, earlier starters had a steeper cumulative growth in criminal behavior over time. Third, finishing high school served as a potential turning point in offenders’ lives, particularly for later starters. The results highlight that continuity and desistance in crime can be partially understood by timing of significant events and heterogeneity in response to turning points.

Misaki N. Natsuaki is a post-doctoral researcher at the Institute of Child Development at University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. She received her Ph.D. in human development at University of California, Davis in 2006. Her current research interest is the influences of biological and social correlates on trajectories of internalizing and externalizing problems during adolescence.
Xiaojia Ge is a Professor of the Institute of Child Development at University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. He received his PhD in sociology from the Iowa State University. He is interested in the influences of biological changes and social transitions on emotional and behavioral development in children and adolescents.
Ernst Wenk is a research associate in the Department of Human and Community Development at University of California, Davis. His major research interests include crime and deviance.