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Life Course Research and the Shaping of Public Policy

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Handbook of the Life Course

Part of the book series: Handbooks of Sociology and Social Research ((HSSR))

Abstract

Criminologists have long complained that public policies on crime and justice are often not consistent with empirical research. In this paper, I address this issue by arguing that in part the problem is that public policy is not placed in a larger conceptual framework and I argue that a life course perspective could go a long way in enriching public policies on crime and justice. In my paper, I draw on results from a long-term research project examining the life course of crime from childhood to old age. This research is then placed in the context of my recent experience directing the National Institute of Justice in the Department of Justice. Embracing what I call “translational criminology,” I conclude by highlighting several examples of how life course research can shape policies on crime and justice moving forward.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    In an earlier paper, I argued that a life course perspective could serve as a paradigm for the field of criminology. Drawing on known facts about crime, I made the case that a life course perspective provided insight and understanding of the causes and dynamics of crime across the life span (see Laub 2006).

  2. 2.

    Homotypic continuity is continuity in similar behaviors across the life course such as the linkage between juvenile delinquency and adult crime. Heterotypic continuity is continuity in diverse behaviors across the life course such as the linkage between crime and other problem behaviors.

  3. 3.

    The American Society of Criminology is one of the largest international organizations in the world whose members are devoted exclusively to the study of and the prevention and control of crime.

  4. 4.

    One challenge facing life course researchers is convincing policymakers that longitudinal data collected over the long term are relevant to the current policy issues today. We faced this with the Glueck data which was drawn from a sample of white, ethnic delinquents who grew up during the Great Depression and came of age during an era when drugs like crack cocaine were nonexistent and guns were far less frequently used in violent crime compared to today.

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Acknowledgements

I thank Mike Shanahan, Monica Johnson, and Jeylan Mortimer for their comments on an earlier draft. I also thank Nicole Frisch and Shradha Sahani for their research assistance.

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Correspondence to John H. Laub .

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Laub, J.H. (2016). Life Course Research and the Shaping of Public Policy. In: Shanahan, M., Mortimer, J., Kirkpatrick Johnson, M. (eds) Handbook of the Life Course. Handbooks of Sociology and Social Research. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-20880-0_27

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-20880-0_27

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