Journal of Quantitative Criminology

, Volume 25, Issue 4, pp 419–441 | Cite as

Detecting Specialization in Offending: Comparing Analytic Approaches

  • Christopher J. Sullivan
  • Jean Marie McGloin
  • James V. Ray
  • Michael S. Caudy
Original Paper


Offending specialization continues to be a subject of empirical inquiry for scholars interested in criminal careers. Early research consistently spoke to the generality of offending profiles, but more recent work has revealed somewhat mixed findings. These results have emerged alongside newly developed and applied methods that detect and describe offending specialization. To what extent these methods shape divergent conclusions and/or provide overlapping insight remains unclear, however. Therefore, the degree to which more recent inquiries are actually studying the same operational definition of specialization is unknown. In order to consider this issue further, this study utilizes four frequently applied approaches with a single data set. The study indicates when and where findings converge and also describes any unique insights provided by each method. The work concludes with a discussion surrounding the utility of applying multiple strategies in assessing specialization in criminal offending.


Offender specialization Diversity index Latent class analysis Forward specialization coefficient Measurement 



The authors thank Dr. Matt DeLisi. Dr. Wayne Osgood, and Dr. Christopher Schreck for their helpful comments on earlier drafts of this manuscript. They also appreciate the constructive suggestions offered by the anonymous reviewers and editors.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christopher J. Sullivan
    • 1
  • Jean Marie McGloin
    • 2
  • James V. Ray
    • 3
  • Michael S. Caudy
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Criminal JusticeUniversity of CincinnatiCincinnatiUSA
  2. 2.Department of Criminology and Criminal JusticeUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkUSA
  3. 3.Department of CriminologyUniversity of South FloridaTampaUSA

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