Following the tradition of Joan McCord's work, this paper reviews longitudinal-experimental studies in criminology with community samples of at least 100 persons, follow-up periods of at least 5 years, personal interviews, and measures of offending. The main advantages of such studies are in investigating both the natural history of development (including the effects of risk/protective factors and life events) and the impact of interventions on offending. This paper also reviews advantages and problems of prospective longitudinal surveys, randomized experiments, and longitudinal-experimental studies in criminology. Four key longitudinal-experimental studies were conducted by Joan McCord, Richard Tremblay, Lawrence Schweinhart and David Olds. Other studies have been conducted, or are currently under way, but no criminological study has yet been published with several years of personal data on participants both before and after an intervention.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
Angrist, J. D. (2006). Instrumental variables methods in experimental criminological research: What, why and how? Journal of Experimental Criminology 2, in press.
Barnett, W. S. (1996). Lives in the balance: Age-27 benefit-cost analysis of the High/Scope Perry Preschool Program. Ypsilanti, MI: High/Scope.
Berntsen, K. & Christiansen, K. O. (1965). A resocialization experiment with short-term offenders. In K. O. Christiansen (Ed.), Scandinavian Studies in Criminology, vol. 1 (pp. 35–54). London: Tavistock.
Berrueta-Clement, J. R., Schweinhart, L. J., Barnett, W. S., Epstein, A. S. & Weikart, D. P. (1984). Changed lives: The effects of the Perry Preschool Program on youths through age 19. Ypsilanti, MI: High/Scope.
Blumstein, A., Cohen, J. & Farrington, D. P. (1988). Longitudinal and criminal career research: Further clarifications. Criminology 26, 57–74.
Boruch, R. F. (1997). Randomized experiments for planning and evaluation. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Bottcher, J. & Ezell, M. E. (2005). Examining the effectiveness of boot camps: A randomized experiment with a long-term follow-up. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 42, 309–332.
Campbell, F. A., Ramey, C. T., Pungello, E., Sparling, J. & Miller-Johnson, S. (2002). Early childhood education: Young adult outcomes from the Abercedarian project. Applied Developmental Science 6, 42–57.
Catalano, R. F., Haggerty, K. P., Fleming, C. B., Brewer, D. D. & Gainey, R. D. (2002). Children of substance-abusing parents: Current findings from the Focus on Families project. In R. J. McMahon & R. D. Peters (Eds.), The effects of parental dysfunction on children (pp. 179–204). New York: Kluwer/Plenum.
Catalano, R. F., Mazza, J. J., Harachi, T. W., Abbott, R. D., Haggerty, K. P. & Fleming, C. B. (2003). Raising healthy children through enhancing social development in elementary school: Results after 1.5 years. Journal of School Psychology 41, 143–164.
Conduct Problems Prevention Research Group (2002). Evaluation of the first 3 years of the Fast Track Prevention Trial with children at high risk for adolescent conduct problems. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 30, 19–35.
Conduct Problems Prevention Research Group (2004). The effects of the Fast Track program on serious problem outcomes at the end of elementary school. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology 33, 650–661.
Cook, T. D. & Payne, M. R. (2002). Objecting to the objections to using random assignment in educational research. In F. Mosteller & R. F. Boruch (Eds.), Evidence matters (pp. 150–178). Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press.
Eckenrode, J., Zielinski, D., Smith, E., Marcynyszyn, L. A., Henderson, C. A., Kitzman, H., Cole, R., Powers, J. & Olds, D. L. (2001). Child maltreatment and the early onset of problem behaviors: Can a program of nurse home visitation break the link? Development and Psychopathology 13, 873–890.
Eisner, M. & Ribeaud, D. (2005). A randomized field experiment to prevent violence: The Zurich Intervention and Prevention Project at Schools, ZIPPS. European Journal of Crime, Criminal Law and Criminal Justice 13, 27–43.
Empey, L. T. & Erickson, M. L. (1972). The Provo experiment: Evaluating community control of delinquency. Lexington, MA: D.C. Heath.
Farrington, D. P. (1979a). Experiments on deviance with special reference to dishonesty. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology, vol. 12 (pp. 207–252). New York: Academic Press.
Farrington, D .P. (1979b). Longitudinal research on crime and delinquency. In N. Morris and M. Tonry (Eds.), Crime and justice, vol. 1 (pp. 289–348). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Farrington, D. P. (1983). Randomized experiments on crime and justice. In M. Tonry & N. Morris (Eds.), Crime and Justice, vol. 4 (pp. 257–308). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Farrington, D. P. (1988). Studying changes within individuals: The causes of offending. In M. Rutter (Ed.), Studies of psychosocial risk: The power of longitudinal data (pp. 158–183). Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.
Farrington, D. P. (1992). The need for longitudinal-experimental research on offending and antisocial behavior. In J. McCord & R. E. Tremblay (Eds.), Preventing antisocial behavior: Interventions from birth through adolescence (pp. 353–376). New York: Guilford.
Farrington, D. P. (2003a). Developmental and life-course criminology: Key theoretical and empirical issues. Criminology 41, 221–255.
Farrington, D. P. (2003b). Key results from the first 40 years of the Cambridge Study in Delinquent Development. In T. P. Thornberry & M. D. Krohn (Eds.), Taking stock of delinquency: An overview of findings from the contemporary longitudinal studies (pp. 137–183). New York: Kluwer/Plenum.
Farrington, D. P. & Jolliffe, D. (2002). A feasibility study into using a randomized controlled trial to evaluate treatment pilots at HMP Whitemoor. London Home Office (Online Report 14/02; see www.homeoffice.gov.uk).
Farrington, D. P. & Welsh, B. C. (2005). Randomized experiments in criminology: What have we learned in the last two decades? Journal of Experimental Criminology 1, 9–38.
Farrington, D. P. & Welsh, B. C. (2006). A half-century of randomized experiments on crime and justice. In M. Tonry (Ed.), Crime and Justice, vol. 34. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, in press.
Farrington, D. P., Ohlin, L. E. & Wilson, J. Q. (1986). Understanding and controlling crime: Toward a new research strategy. New York: Springer-Verlag.
Farrington, D. P., Gallagher, B., Morley, L., St. Ledger, R. J. & West, D. J. (1990). Minimizing attrition in longitudinal research: Methods of tracing and securing cooperation in a 24-year follow-up study. In D. Magnusson & L. R. Bergman (Eds.), Data quality in longitudinal research (pp. 122–147). Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.
Farrington, D. P., Loeber, R., Yin, Y. & Anderson, S. J. (2002). Are within-individual causes of delinquency the same as between-individual causes? Criminal Behavior and Mental Health 12, 53–68.
Hawkins, J. D., von Cleve, E. & Catalano, R. F. (1991). Reducing early childhood aggression: Results of a primary prevention program. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 30, 208–217.
Hawkins, J. D., Catalano, R. F., Morrison, D. M., O'Donnell, J., Abbott, R. D. & Day, L. E. (1992). The Seattle Social Development Project: Effects of the first four years on protective factors and problem behaviors. In J. McCord & R. E. Tremblay (Eds.), Preventing antisocial behavior: Interventions from birth through adolescence (pp. 139–161). New York: Guilford.
Hawkins, J. D., Catalano, R. F., Kosterman, R., Abbott, R., & Hill, K. G. (1999). Preventing adolescent health-risk behaviors by strengthening protection during childhood. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine 153, 226–234.
Hawkins, J. D., Smith, B. H., Hill, K. G., Kosterman, R., Catalano, R. F. & Abbott, R. D. (2003). Understanding and preventing crime and violence: Findings from the Seattle Social Development Project. In T. P. Thornberry & M. D. Krohn (Eds.), Taking stock of delinquency: An overview of findings from contemporary longitudinal studies (pp. 255–312). New York: Kluwer/Plenum.
Hawkins, J. D., Kosterman, R., Catalano, R. F., Hill, K. G. & Abbott, R. D. (2005). Promoting positive adult functioning through social development intervention in childhood. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine 159, 25–31.
Jesness, C. F. (1971). Comparative effectiveness of two institutional treatment programs for delinquents. Child Care Quarterly 1, 119–130.
Kling, J. R., Ludwig, J. & Katz, L. F. (2005). Neighborhood effects on crime for female and male youth: Evidence from a randomized housing voucher experiment. Quarterly Journal of Economics 120, 87–130.
Lacourse, E., Cote, S., Nagin, D. S., Vitaro, F., Brendgen, M. & Tremblay, R. E. (2002). A longitudinal-experimental approach to testing theories of antisocial behavior development. Development and Psychopathology 14, 909–924.
Lally, J. R., Mangione, P. L. & Honig, A. S. (1988). The Syracuse University Family Development Research Program: Long-range impact of an early intervention with low-income children and their families. In D. R. Powell (Ed.), Parent education as early childhood intervention: Emerging directions in theory, research and practice (pp. 79–104). Norwood, NJ: Ablex.
Loeber, R. & Farrington, D. P. (1994). Problems and solutions in longitudinal and experimental treatment studies of child psychopathology and delinquency. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 62, 887–900.
Loeber, R. & Farrington, D. P. (1997). Strategies and yields of longitudinal studies on antisocial behavior. In D. N. Stoff, J. Breiling & J. D. Maser (Eds.), Handbook of antisocial behavior (pp. 125–139). New York: Wiley.
Loeber, R., Farrington, D. P., Stouthamer-Loeber, M. & van Kammen, W. B. (1998). Antisocial behavior and mental health problems: Explanatory factors in childhood and adolescence. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Lonczak, H. S., Abbott, R. D., Hawkins, J. D., Kosterman, R. & Catalano, R. F. (2002). Effects of the Seattle Social Development Project on sexual behavior, pregnancy, birth, and sexually transmitted disease outcomes by age 21 years. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine 156, 438–447.
Lösel, F. & Beelman, A. (2003). Early developmental prevention of aggression and delinquency. In F. Dunkel & K. Drenkhahn (Eds.), Youth violence: New patterns and local responses. Monchengladbach, Germany: Forum Verlag.
Ludwig, J., Duncan, G. J. & Hirschfield, P. (2001). Urban poverty and juvenile crime: Evidence from a randomized housing-mobility experiment. Quarterly Journal of Economics 116, 655–679.
Mason, W. A., Kosterman, R., Hawkins, J. D., Haggerty, K. P. & Spoth, R. L. (2003). Reducing adolescents' growth in substance use and delinquency: Randomized trial effects of a parent-training prevention intervention. Prevention Science 4, 203–212.
McCarton, C. M., Brooks-Gunn, J., Wallace, I. F., Bauer, C. R., Bennett, F. C., Bernbaum, J. C., Broyles, R. S., Casey, P. H., McCormick, M. C., Scott, D. T., Tyson, J., Tonascia, J. & Meinert, C. L. (1997). Results at age 8 years of early intervention for low-birth-weight premature infants. Journal of the American Medical Association 277, 126–132.
McCord, J. (1977). A comparative study of two generations of native Americans. In R. F. Meier (Ed.), Theory in criminology (pp. 83–92). Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.
McCord, J. (1978). A thirty-year follow-up of treatment effects. American Psychologist 33, 284–289.
McCord, J. (1979). Some child-rearing antecedents of criminal behavior in adult men. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 37, 1477–1486.
McCord, J. (1980). Patterns of deviance. In S. B. Sells, R. Crandall, M. Roff, J. Strauss & W. Pollin (Eds.), Human functioning in longitudinal perspective (pp. 157–167). Baltimore: Williams and Wilkins.
McCord, J. (1982). A longitudinal view of the relationship between paternal absence and crime. In J. Gunn & D. P. Farrington (Eds.), Abnormal offenders, delinquency, and the criminal justice system (pp. 113–128). Chichester, England: Wiley.
McCord, J. (1990). Crime in moral and social contexts—the American Society of Criminology 1989 Presidential Address. Criminology 28, 1–26.
McCord, J. (1992). The Cambridge-Somerville Study: A pioneering longitudinal-experimental study of delinquency prevention. In J. McCord & R. E. Tremblay (Eds.), Preventing antisocial behavior: Interventions from birth through adolescence (pp. 196–206). New York: Guilford.
McCord, J. (2003). Cures that harm: Unanticipated outcomes of crime prevention programs. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 587, 16–30.
McCord, J. & McCord, W. (1959). A follow-up report on the Cambridge–Somerville Youth Study. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 322, 89–96.
McCord, J.,Tremblay, R. E., Vitaro, F. & Desmarais-Gervais, L. (1994). Boys' disruptive behavior, school adjustment and delinquency: The Montreal Prevention Experiment. International Journal of Behavioral Development 17, 739–752.
Metropolitan Area Child Study Research Group (2002). A cognitive-ecological approach to preventing aggression in urban settings: Initial outcomes for high-risk children. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 70, 179–194.
Mills, P. E., Cole, K. N., Jenkins, J. R. & Dale, P. S. (2002). Early exposure to direct instruction and subsequent juvenile delinquency: A prospective examination. Exceptional Children 69, 85–96.
Nagin, D. S. & Tremblay, R. E. (1999). Trajectories of boys' physical aggression, opposition, and hyperactivity on the path to physically violent and nonviolent juvenile delinquency. Child Development 70, 1181–1196.
Olds, D. L., Eckenrode, J., Henderson, C. R., Kitzman, H., Powers, J., Cole, R., Sidora, K., Morris, P., Pettitt, L. M. & Luckey, D. W. (1997). Long-term effects of home visitation on maternal life course and child abuse and neglect. Journal of the American Medical Association, 278, 637–643.
Olds, D. L., Henderson, C. R., Cole, R., Eckenrode, J., Kitzman, H., Luckey, D., Pettitt, L., Sidora, K., Morris, P. & Powers, J. (1998). Long-term effects of nurse home visitation on children's criminal and antisocial behavior: 15-year follow-up of a randomized controlled trial. Journal of the American Medical Association 280, 1238–1244.
Olds, D. L., Kitzman, H., Cole, R., Robinson, J., Sidora, K., Luckey, D. W., Henderson, C. R., Hanks, C., Bondy, J. & Holmberg, J. (2004). Effects of nurse home-visiting on maternal life course and child development: Age 6 follow-up results of a randomized trial. Pediatrics 114, 1550–1559.
Ortmann, R. (2000). The effectiveness of social therapy in prison: A randomized experiment. Crime and Delinquency 46, 214–232.
Powers, E. & Witmer, H. (1951). An experiment in the prevention of delinquency. New York: Columbia University Press.
Raine, A., Mellingen, K., Liu, J., Venables, P. H. & Mednick, S. A. (2003). Effects of environmental enrichment at ages 3–5 years on schizotypal personality and antisocial behavior at ages 17 and 23 years. American Journal of Psychiatry 160, 1627–1635.
Reynolds, A. J., Temple, J. A., Robertson, D. L. & Mann, E. A. (2001). Long-term effects of an early childhood intervention on educational achievement and juvenile arrest: A 15-year follow-up of low-income children in public schools. Journal of the American Medical Association 285, 2339–2346.
Robins, L. N. (1966). Deviant children grown up. Baltimore, MD: Williams and Wilkins.
Robins, L. N. (1992). The role of prevention experiments in discovering causes of children's antisocial behavior. In J. McCord & R. E. Tremblay (Eds.), Preventing antisocial behavior: Interventions from birth through adolescence (pp. 3–18). New York: Guilford.
Sampson, R. J., Morenoff, J. D. & Raudenbush, S. (2005). Social anatomy of racial and ethnic disparities in violence. American Journal of Public Health 95, 224–232.
Schwartz, D., Flamant, R. & Lelouch, J. (1980). Clinical trials. London: Academic Press.
Schweinhart, L. J. & Weikart, D. P. (1980). Young children grow up: The effects of the Perry Preschool Program on youths through age 15. Ypsilanti, MI: High/Scope.
Schweinhart, L. J., Barnes, H. V. & Weikart, D. P. (1993). Significant benefits: The High/Scope Perry Preschool Study through age 27. Ypsilanti, MI: High/Scope.
Schweinhart, L. J., Montie, J., Zongping, X., Barnett, W. S., Belfield, C. R. & Nores, M. (2005). Lifetime effects: The High/Scope Perry Preschool Study through age 40. Ypsilanti, MI: High/Scope.
Tonry, M., Ohlin, L. E. & Farrington, D. P. (1991). Human development and criminal behavior: New ways of advancing knowledge. New York: Springer-Verlag.
Tremblay, R. E., Pihl, R. O., Vitaro, F. & Dobkin, P. L. (1994). Predicting early onset of male antisocial behavior from preschool behavior. Archives of General Psychiatry 51, 737–739.
Tremblay, R. E., Pagani-Kurtz, L., Mâsse, L. C., Vitaro, F. & Pihl, R. O. (1995). A bimodal preventive intervention for disruptive kindergarten boys: Its impact through mid-adolescence. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 63, 560–568.
Tremblay, R. E., Mâsse, L. C., Pagani, L. & Vitaro, F. (1996). From childhood physical aggression to adolescent maladjustment: The Montreal prevention experiment. In R. D. Peters & R. J. McMahon (Eds.), Preventing childhood disorders, substance use, and delinquency (pp. 268–298). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Vitaro, F., Brendgen, M. & Tremblay, R. E. (2001). Preventive intervention: Assessing its effects on the trajectories of delinquency and testing for mediational processes. Applied Developmental Science 5, 201–213.
Joan McCord Award Lecture given at the American Society of Criminology, Toronto, Canada.
About this article
Cite this article
Farrington, D.P. Key longitudinal-experimental studies in criminology. J Exp Criminol 2, 121–141 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11292-006-9000-2