Self-control, Emerging Adulthood, and Desistance from Crime: a Partial Test of Pratt’s Integrated Self-control/Life-Course Theory of Offending

  • Beverly Reece CrankEmail author
  • Timothy Brezina



Although self-control and life-course perspectives are often viewed as competing, if not incompatible, theoretical traditions, Pratt (European Journal of Criminology, 13, 129–146, 2016) argues that the two perspectives are in many ways complementary. In his new integrated theory, self-control is viewed as a dynamic factor that is subject to change and that influences behavior over the life course, including the decreases in crime that typically come with age. Further, it is argued that increases in self-control reduce the likelihood of offending, in part, because they influence the social environments that individuals find themselves in, the activities they pursue, and their cognitive mindsets. In this study, we conduct a partial test of the integrated self-control/life-course theory, with a special focus on the theory’s relevance to desistance during emerging adulthood.


Longitudinal data from a large study of serious young offenders are used to examine within-person changes in self-control and other variables related to desistance from crime.


Although certain variables fail to behave as predicted, the overall pattern of results is consistent with the general thrust of the integrated theory, highlighting the role of self-control in the desistance process.


We find that absolute increases in self-control exert both direct and indirect inhibiting effects on offending, with the indirect effects operating through various life-course variables. Implications for theory and future research are discussed.


Self-control Social bonds Desistance from crime Life-course theory 



We wish to thank Brent Teasdale, Frances Chen, and several anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and suggestions.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology and Criminal JusticeKennesaw State UniversityKennesawUSA
  2. 2.Georgia State UniversityAtlantaUSA

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