Determinants of Early Desistence From Criminal Careers: First Results of a German Study

Hans-Jergen Kerner, University of Tuebingen
Elmar Weitekamp, University of Leuven

The findings of the Tuebingen Criminal Behavior Development Study, which followed 200 young prisoners and 200 control persons from age 20 to 55, revealed that the group of offenders terminated their criminal careers at each stage of their life/career, meaning sometimes after their ninth conviction or maturing already in the beginning of their career out of criminal behavior. Based on these for criminal policy very relevant findings we started in the mid 1990's a qualitative study of 60 young chronic offenders in order to examine their determinants of early desistance from a criminal career. The central aim of the study was to unveil the most decisive determinants for an early desistance from crime. First results support quite well the age-graded interactive theories of criminal behavior and its trajectories. Young adult offenders do desist from criminal behavior by changing their basic life style, by getting used to new patterns of bonding with other people, by entering stable partnerships, by developing positive and structured leisure time activities, and by starting meaningful jobs. The "decision" to desist early from a criminal career emerges from complex processes of reshaping the personal identity and basic life orientations.

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Updated 05/20/2006