Designing Research to Uncover Patterns of Short-Term Change in High-Rate Offenders: Lessons From Research on Drug-Using Prostitutes on an Urban Prostitution Stroll

Regina E. Brisgone, Rutgers University

The lives of drug-addicted prostitutes are measured in hours and days rather than months and years, driven by the rhythms of craving, obtaining, and using drugs. Change can occur in the lives of such high-rate offenders, but is often short-term and transient, and thus can be overlooked in long-term studies of offending with few measurements (Horney et al, 1995). Horney et al. (1995) addressed this issue by measuring frequent changes in high-rate offenders in response to changes in "local life circumstances". This presentation focuses on change in the short-term for 92 drug-addicted prostitutes. Identifying moments of change can be difficult in such a group; this presentation will focus on conceptual and measurement issues of defining and assessing short-term change, and the utility of qualitative methodology. I will discuss identifying change in narratives using the concept of "epiphanies" - those turning point experiences that clarify problematic behavior for individuals and can transform lives (Denzin, 1989). I also will discuss interview techniques that capture events in the short term - both current and in the past - that lead to behavioral change. I also will discuss identifying common themes of behavioral turning points, and suitable coding for analysis of change in the short term.

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Updated 05/20/2006