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Developmental Theory: Life Course and Latent Trait


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Title: Developmental Theory: Life Course and Latent Trait

Chapter 9
Developmental Theory Life Course and Latent Trait
Developmental Theories
  • Seek to identify, describe, and understand the
    development factors the explain the onset and
    continuation of a criminal career
  • Intertwining of personal factors, social factors,
    socialization factors, cognitive factors, and
    situational factors
  • Two distinct groups life course theories and
    latent trait

The Life Course View
  • Some people are incapable of maturing in a
    reasonable and timely fashion because of family,
    environmental and personal problems
  • The propensity to commit crime is neither stable
    nor constant
  • Life course theories at multidimensional,
    suggesting criminality has multiple roots

Figure 9.1 Life Course and Latent Trait Theories
The Life Course View
  • The Glueck Research
  • Popularized the research on the life cycle of
    delinquent careers
  • The deeper the roots of childhood maladjustment,
    the smaller the change of adult adjustment
  • Family relations are paramount in terms of
    quality of discipline and emotional ties with
  • Children with low IQs, a background of mental
    disease, and a powerful physique were most likely
    to be delinquent

The Life Course View
  • Life Course Concepts
  • Rolf Loeber and Marc LeBlanc devoted time to the
    evolution of the criminal career
  • Attention should be given to how a criminal
    career unfolds
  • People may show a propensity of offend early in
    their lives

The Life Course View
  • Problem Behavior Syndrome
  • Criminal behavior is one of many antisocial
    behaviors that cluster together and typically
    involve family dysfunction, sexual and physical
    abuse, substance abuse, smoking, and precocious
  • All varieties of criminal behavior may be part of
    a generalized PBS
  • Unemployment
  • Educational underachievement
  • School misconduct
  • Residing in high crime and disorganized areas
  • Exposure to racism and poverty
  • Personal problems such as suicide attempts,
    sensation seeking, early parenthood,
    accident-proneness, medical problems, mental
    disease, anxiety, and eating disorders

The Life Course View
  • Pathways to Crime
  • Loeber and associates identified three distinct
    pathways to a criminal career
  • Authority conflict begins at an early age with
    stubborn behavior
  • Covert pathway begins with minor underhanded
    behavior and leads to property damage
  • Overt pathway escalates into aggressive acts and
    then to violence

Figure 9.2 Loebers Pathways to Crime
The Life Course View
  • Age of Onset/Continuity of Crime
  • Life course theory suggests criminal careers are
    planted early in life
  • May begin with truancy, cruelty to animals,
    lying, and theft
  • Some offenders peak at an early age, whereas
    others persist into adulthood
  • Continuity and desistance Poor parental
    discipline and monitoring may be key to early
  • Rejection by peers and academic failure sustains
    antisocial behavior

The Life Course View
  • Gender Similarities and Differences
  • Like boys, early onset girls continue to
    experience difficulties such as drug/alcohol use,
    poor school adjustment, mental health problems,
    and a variety of relationship dysfunctions
  • Early onset path for males results in problems at
    work and substance abuse
  • Early onset pathways for females are more likely
    to lead to depression and a tendency to commit

The Life Course View
  • Adolescent Limiteds and Life Course Persisters
  • Terrie Moffet suggests most offenders are
    adolescent limited in that antisocial behavior
    peaks and then diminishes
  • A small group of offenders are persisters who
    begin offending at an early age and continue into
  • Early starters experience 1) poor parenting, 2)
    deviant behaviors and then 3) involvement with
    delinquent groups

The Life Course View
  • Supporting Research
  • Recent research supports Moffits views
  • Early onset delinquents are influenced by
    individual traits such as low verbal ability,
    hyperactivity, and negative personality traits
  • Community-level factors such as poverty and
    instability seem to have little effect on their

Theories of the Criminal Life Course
  • The Social Development Model
  • Integration of social control, social learning,
    and structural theories (Weis, Catalano, Hawkins)
  • Community-level risk factors contribute to
    criminality (social control, disorganization, and
  • Prosocial bonds may inhibit antisocial behaviors
    (attachment to conventional activities and
  • SDM-based interventions can help reduce
    delinquency and drug abuse

Figure 9.3 The Social Development Model of
Antisocial Behavior
Theories of the Criminal Life Course
  • Farringtons ICAP (Integrated Cognitive
    Antisocial Potential) Theory
  • Farrington suggested traits present in persistent
    offenders can be observed at age 8
  • Future criminals receive poor parental
    supervision and harsh/erratic punishments
  • Deviant behavior tends to be versatile rather
    than specialized
  • Chronic offenders experience personal troubles
    and family dysfunction throughout their lives
  • Marriage, employment, and relocation help to
    diminish criminal activity

Theories of the Criminal Life Course
  • The IACP Theory
  • David Farrington suggests antisocial potential
    (AP) falls along a continuum ranging form high to
    low AP
  • Long-term AP increases are contingent on desire
    for material goods, status, excitement, sexual
    satisfaction, and legitimate means for their
  • Short-term AP is affected by situational
    inducements such as peers and criminal
  • According to ICAP, the commission of offenses and
    antisocial acts depends on the interaction
    between an individual and the social environment
  • People stop offending due to decreasing
    motivations, impulsiveness, decreasing physical
    capacities, and changes in socialization

Figure 9.4 Farringtons IACP Theory
Theories of the Criminal Life Course
  • Interactional Theory
  • Terence Thornberry proposed an age-graded view of
  • The onset of crime can be traced to a
    deterioration of the social bond during
  • Delinquent youths form belief systems consistent
    with their deviant lifestyles
  • The causal process is dynamic and develops over a
    persons life

Figure 9.5 The Interactional Theory of Delinquency
Theories of the Criminal Life Course
  • Testing Interactional Theory
  • Research indicates that associating with
    delinquent peers does increase delinquent
  • Weakened attachments to family and the
    educational process appears to be related to
  • Children who grow up in indigent households that
    experience unemployment, high mobility, and
    parental criminality are at risk

Theories of the Criminal Life Course
  • General Theory of Crime and Delinquency
  • Robert Agnew suggested environmental factors and
    social and physical traits contribute to
  • Crime occurs when constraints are low
  • Five elements of human development
  • Self irritability and/or low self-control
  • Family poor parenting or marriage problems
  • School negative school experiences or limited
  • Peers Delinquent friends
  • Work Unemployment or poor job

Figure 9.6 Agnews General Theory of Crime and
Theories of the Criminal Life Course
  • Sampson and Laub Age-Graded Theory
  • Robert Sampson and John Laub identified turning
    points (critical events) that may enable an
    offender to desist from crime
  • Career and marriage are turning points
  • Social Capital refers to positive relations
    with individuals and institutions, which support
    conventional behavior
  • People who maintain a successful marriage and
    become parents are more likely to mature out of

Figure 9.7 Sampson and Laubs Age-Graded Thoery
Theories of the Criminal Life Course
  • Testing Age-Graded Theory
  • Indicators tend to support age-graded theory
    (i.e. employment)
  • Research suggests the greater the social capital,
    the more likely one will be insulated from crime
  • The Marriage Factor People who marry and become
    parents are most likely mature out of crime
  • Laub and Sampson are following up on the original
    research cohort of the Gluecks

Latent Trait View
  • Assumes some people have a personal attribute
    that controls their propensity to commit crime
  • The trait is either present at birth or
    established early in life
  • Propensity and opportunity to commit crime
    fluctuate over time

Latent Trait View
  • Crime and Human Nature
  • Wilson and Herrnsteins human nature theory
    suggests genetics, intelligence, and body build
    contribute to criminality
  • Biological and psychological traits influence
    crime choice and noncrime choices
  • Their work suggests the existence of an elusive
    trait that predisposes people to commit crime

Latent Trait Theories
  • General Theory of Crime (GTC)
  • Michael Gottfredson and Travis Hirschi modified
    social control theory and integrated concepts of
    biosocial, psychological, routine activities, and
    rational choice theories
  • GTC considers the offender and the criminal act
    as separate concepts
  • People commit crime when it promises rewards and
    they are predisposed to commit crime
  • Tendencies to commit crime is contingent on a
    persons level of self-control
  • Root of poor self-control is traced to inadequate
    child-rearing practices
  • Gottfredson and Hirschi maintain the GTC explains
    all varieties of criminal behavior
  • Empirical evidence tends to support the GTC

Figure 9.8 Gottfredson and Hirschis General
Theory of Crime
Latent Trait Theories
  • Analyzing the General Theory of Crime
  • Some critics charge GTC is
  • Tautological Crime and impulsive behavior
  • Different Classes of Criminals Research
    indicates offenders occupy more than one class
    and more than one factor may contribute to their
  • Ecological/Individual Differences Fails to
    address individual and ecological patterns in
    crime rates
  • Racial and Gender Differences Little evidence
    that males are more impulsive than females and
    overlooks racism and poverty issues
  • Moral Beliefs GTC ignores the moral concept of
    right and wrong
  • Peer Influence Negative influences of peers
    increases the likelihood of criminality rather
    than reducing it
  • People Change Propensity to commit crime does
    change and it is not static as suggested by GTC
  • Modest Relationship Self control is modestly
    related to antisocial behavior
  • Cross Cultural Differences GTC may be weak in
    cross-national studies
  • Misreads Human Nature GTC assumes people are
    selfish, self-serving, and hedonistic
  • Personality Disorder GTC ignores personality

Latent Trait Theories
  • Differential Coercion Theory
  • Mark Colvin suggests coercion as a master trait
    for criminality
  • Interpersonal Coercion involves the use or
    threat of force and intimidation from parents,
    peers, and others
  • Impersonal Coercion involves pressures such as
    economic and social pressures (poverty-competition
  • Maintaining self control is contingent on the
    function, type and consistency of coercion
  • To reduce crime society must enhance legitimate
    social support and reduce the forces of coercion

Figure 9.9 Colvins Theory of Differential
Latent Trait Theories
  • Coercion and Criminal Careers
  • Chronic offenders grow up in homes with erratic
    and inconsistent control
  • Coercive Ideation the world is conceived as full
    of coercive forces that need equal or greater
    coercive responses to overcome
  • Differential Social Support Social support may
    negate or counterbalance crime-producing coercion
  • Expressive social support (affirmation of
  • Instrumental social support (financial

Latent Trait Theories
  • Control Balance Theory
  • Charles Tittle suggest control has two elements
    that when out of balance produce deviant and
    criminal behaviors
  • The amount of control one is subject to by others
  • The amount of control one can exercise over
  • Three types of behavior restores balance for
    those who sense a deficit
  • Predation direct forms of physical violence
  • Defiance challenges to control mechanisms
  • Submission passive obedience
  • Those with an excess of control engage in
  • Exploitation using others to commit crime
  • Plunder using power without regard for others
  • Decadence spur of the moment irrational acts

Figure 9.10 Tittles Control Balance Theory
Latent Trait Theories
  • Evaluating Developmental Theories
  • Life course theorists emphasize the influence of
    changing interpersonal and structural factors
  • Latent trait theorists place more emphasis on
    behavior being linked to personal change than to
    changes in the surrounding world

CNN Clip - Drug Cartel Leader On Trial
Public Policy Implications of Developmental
  • Multi-systematic treatment efforts
  • Programs targeting those at high risk to improve
    their developmental skills
  • SMART (skills, mastery, and resistance training)