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Trajectories of Offending over 9 Years after Youths' First Arrest: What Predicts who Desists and Who Continues to Offend?

NCJ Number
Journal of Research on Adolescence Volume: Online Dated: March 2024
Date Published
March 2024

This study analyzes data from the Crossroads study to determine whether risk factors can predict which youth continue to offend and which don’t.


The results of this study suggest that certain risk factors identified after youths' first arrest may predict which youth continue to offend and which desist. Antisocial and illegal behavior generally declines as youth approach adulthood, but there is significant individual variation in the timing of the peak and decline of offending from adolescence to young adulthood. There are two primary research questions in the present study. First, are there subgroups of youth who follow similar patterns of offending over the nine years after their first arrest? Second, what baseline factors predict which youth will follow each pattern of offending? Data were drawn from the Crossroads study, which includes a sample of racially and ethnically diverse boys who were interviewed regularly for 9 years following their first arrest. Boys were between 13 and 17 years old at the start of the study and were approximately 24-25 years old at the final interview. Trajectories were measured with youths' self-reported offending using latent class growth analysis (LCGA). Results indicated that there were four subgroups of youth: a stable low group (55%), an escalating group (23%), a short-term recidivist group (15%), and a persistently high group (7%). Several baseline factors distinguished the groups. In particular, the results indicated that youth who were informally processed after their first arrest were more likely to be in the low offending group than any of the other LCGA groups. Age at first arrest, peer delinquency, exposure to violence, substance use, callous-unemotional traits, physical aggression, and perceptions of police legitimacy were also significantly related to group membership. (Published Abstract Provided)

Date Published: March 1, 2024