Journal of Quantitative Criminology

, Volume 22, Issue 2, pp 107–129 | Cite as

Examining the Divergence Across Self-report and Official Data Sources on Inferences About the Adolescent Life-course of Crime

  • David S. KirkEmail author
Original paper


Both self-report and official crime data have known limitations, leading to the critical question as to whether inferences about the adolescent life-course of crime are different across these data sources. Using both official and self-report arrest data on a sample of subjects drawn from the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods (PHDCN) longitudinal cohort study, this paper examines the extent to which individual age-arrest curves are comparable across these data sources. Particular attention is given to examining whether criminal career dimensions, namely participation, frequency of arrest, age of onset, and continuity in behavior, are similar across data sources. Additionally, this paper examines whether the key predictors of youth crime (e.g., family processes, peer influence, and neighborhood disadvantage) function similarly across measurement types. Findings reveal that a sizable number of youth self-report being arrested without having a corresponding official arrest record, and a sizable proportion of those youth with an official arrest record fail to self-report that they had been arrested. Despite significant differences across the two arrest measures on many criminal career dimensions, the effects of family supervision, parent–child conflict, and neighborhood disadvantage operate similarly across data types.


PHDCN Self-report measures Official measures Criminal careers Life-course 



This research was supported in part by Grant 2004-IJ-CX-0012 from the National Institute of Justice, by National Science Foundation grant SES-021551 to the National Consortium on Violence Research (NCOVR), and by the Henry A. Murray Dissertation Award from the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. The Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods was conducted with support of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the National Institute of Justice and the National Institute of Mental Health. I thank Robert Goerge and John Dilts for their assistance in obtaining and processing the official arrest data used in this study. I also thank Andrew Abbott, Wayne Osgood, Andrew Papachristos, Paul Rathouz, Rob Sampson, and the anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on earlier drafts of this manuscript. Any findings or conclusions expressed are those solely of the author.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of ChicagoChicagoUSA
  2. 2.WashingtonUSA

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