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Article
Elaborating on the Effects of Early Offending: a Study of Factors that Mediate the Impact of Onset Age on Long-Term Trajectories of Criminal Behavior
Journal of Developmental and Life-Course Criminology (2015)
  • Shaun M. Gann, University of Cincinnati
  • Christopher J. Sullivan, University of Cincinnati
  • Omeed Ilchi, University of Cincinnati
Abstract
Purpose Age of onset is one of the strongest predictors of long-term, continuous offending, with the prognosis worsening with an earlier start. In and of itself, onset age is just a marker and not a mechanism affecting behavioral trajectories. In this study, we examine the direct and mediated relationship between age of onset and other individual and social influences as they jointly affect long-term offending trajectories.

Methods This study utilizes longitudinal data from the Pathways to Desistance Study of serious young offenders in two major US cities (n = 792). Latent class growth models are estimated, and then, the direct and mediated impact of onset age in explaining variation in those trends is tested.

Results A four class model provides the best fit to the data. Analyses indicate that most of the potential mediators do help to predict most likely class membership. After accounting for the mediation process, onset age maintains its significant direct effect on class membership for only the low, no offending class, and there are significant indirect effects present in the other models.

Conclusions The findings support a mixed perspective on continuity in offending: age of onset seems to be a marker for high delinquent propensity and related choices (e.g., association with delinquent peers), which reflects a population heterogeneity perspective, but it also may be an early link in a chain of causal mechanisms that increases the likelihood of becoming a serious long-term offender (i.e., state dependence).
Keywords
  • age of onset,
  • offending trajectories,
  • mediation effects,
  • latent class growth,
  • modeling,
  • juvenile delinquency
Publication Date
March, 2015
DOI
10.1007/s40865-015-0003-4
Citation Information
Shaun M. Gann, Christopher J. Sullivan and Omeed Ilchi. "Elaborating on the Effects of Early Offending: a Study of Factors that Mediate the Impact of Onset Age on Long-Term Trajectories of Criminal Behavior" Journal of Developmental and Life-Course Criminology Vol. 1 Iss. 1 (2015) p. 63 - 86
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/shaun-gann/3/