Journal of Quantitative Criminology

, Volume 19, Issue 2, pp 129-153

First online:

Desistance as a Developmental Process: A Comparison of Static and Dynamic Approaches

  • Shawn D. BushwayAffiliated withDepartment of Criminology and Criminal Justice, University of Maryland
  • , Terence P. ThornberryAffiliated withSchool of Criminal Justice, University at Albany
  • , Marvin D. KrohnAffiliated withDepartment of Sociology, University at Albany

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New research in the field of developmental criminology has led researchers to reconceptualize desistance as a behavioral process that unfolds over the life course. This approach puts more emphasis on the pathways by which people reach the state of non-offending, and less emphasis on the state of non-offending itself. This reconceptualization has implications for how we measure desistance in longi-tudinal data. In this paper, we suggest that the traditional measurement approach is inconsistent with this view, and we present an alternative measurement approach based on the premises of developmental criminology. Although not perfect, we argue that the dynamic measure better describes the key elements of the process of desistance. Both approaches are implemented using data from the Rochester Youth Development Study, a longitudinal study of youthful offenders. We demon-strate that the two approaches identify different people as desistors. Moreover, we argue that the dynamic definition of desistance has more promise for providing insight into the changes that are the behavioral focus of the desistance process.

desistance behavioral change developmental processes offending