Toward a Unified Theory of Behavioral Stability

John Paul Wright, University of Cincinnati
Kevin Beaver, University of Cincinnati
Christopher L. Gibson, University of South Florida

One of the most robust findings in criminology is the high degree of stability in antisocial behavior over the life course. Given this strong connection between past and subsequent misconduct, researchers have attempted to explicate the reasons for this relationship. Despite the long line of literature examining this association, a consensus on the exact causal mechanisms accounting for stability has not yet been reached. Although recent theoretical advances have been made, the field remains divided between competing explanations: population heterogeneity and state dependence. By drawing from these two theoretical camps, we begin to set the foundation for a unified theory of behavioral stability. In general, we maintain that the underlying structure of behavioral stability is comprised of three inter-related factors: antisocial dispositions, delinquent conduct, and antisocial consequences. When these three factors accumulate within an individual, the likelihood for stability is high. Using a national longitudinal data set, we find tentative support for our theory.

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Updated 05/20/2006