General Strain Theory and Within-Individual Change in Offending

Lee Ann Slocum, University of Maryland at College Park
Sally S. Simpson, University of Maryland at College Park
Doug Smith, University of Maryland at College Park

Most previous tests of General Strain Theory have used cross-sectional data or lengthy lags between data points to examine the effect of strain on crime. These types of data make it impossible to explore issues of within-individual change or temporal patterning. This paper contributes to our knowledge of General Strain Theory by addressing within-individual change and temporal patterning of strain and crime using more appropriate data. Specifically, using monthly retrospective data collected from 277 incarcerated women at the Baltimore City Women's Detention Center, we explore how within-individual changes in levels of strain are related to changes in the likelihood of engaging in violence, drug use and property crime. In addition, we address the problem of causal ordering and attempt to disentangle temporal issues like recency, duration, clustering and accumulation of strain.

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Updated 05/20/2006