Victimization and Desistance from Crime
Victimization is a negative life experience that tends to occur in the context of one’s own offending. Although a great deal of literature shows that victimization often leads to increases in criminal behavior, there are also reasons to believe that, for some offenders, victimization can serve as a turning point that marks the end of criminal careers. The problem, however, is that little is known about why some victims desist from crime and others do not. Accordingly, the purpose of this study is to identify the processes that lead to changes in crime over time among victimized offenders.
A subset of data from the Pathways to Desistance Study is used, which is a multi-site, 7-year longitudinal study of serious juvenile offenders. Multilevel models are estimated to determine the behavioral, cognitive, and social sources of changes in crime among 190 victimized male offenders (N = 1540 person-waves).
The results suggest that victimized offenders who reduce their affiliations to deviant peers (i.e., peers who hold attitudes favorable to crime) engage in less crime over time. These changes to peer affiliations are preceded by victims’ reductions in binge drinking and transitions into fatherhood.
There is variability in offending among victims of crime that is not often explored. Future work would benefit from focusing not only on whether victimization increases offending, but for whom.
KeywordsVictimization Desistance Males Longitudinal design Criminal victims
I wish to thank Travis Pratt for his helpful feedback, as well as Chris Sullivan who provided thoughtful comments on an earlier version presented at the 71st Annual Meeting of the American Society of Criminology in Washington, DC.
The Pathways to Desistance Study was supported by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (2000-MU–MU-0007), the National Institute of Justice (1999-IJ-CX-0053), the National Institute of Drug Abuse (R01 DA019697-01), the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the William T. Grant Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, The Center for Disease Control, The William Penn Foundation, The Arizona Governor’s Justice Commission, and the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. No direct funding from these agencies was received for this analysis. The content of this paper is the sole responsibility of the author and does not necessarily represent the official views of these agencies.
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