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Psychosocial Maturity and Desistance From Crime in a Sample of Serious Juvenile Offenders

NCJ Number
Date Published
March 2015
12 pages
Publication Series
This study interviewed 1,354 young offenders from Philadelphia and Phoenix over a 7-year period after their convictions for serious crimes to determine what factors influenced the youth to either persist in or desist from offending.
The findings indicate that the process of desisting from crime, even serious crime, is linked to the process of brain development, which does not reach maturity until the mid-20s. Of particular concern to criminologists is the under-development of that part of the brain that enables the regulation of one's behavior in accordance with rational assessments of both the short-term and long-term effects of one's behavior. In the current study, "Pathways to Desistence," youth whose antisocial behavior persisted into early adulthood (25 years old) were found to have lower levels of psychosocial maturity (arrested development) compared with adolescent offenders who desisted from crime in their early 20s. Immediately after recruitment into the study, researchers conducted a structured 4-hour baseline interview with each adolescent. The interview included an assessment of the adolescent's self-reported social background, developmental history, psychological functioning, psychosocial maturity, attitudes about legal behavior, intelligence, school achievement and engagement, work experience, mental health, current and previous substance use and abuse, family and peer relationships, use of social services, and antisocial behavior. After the baseline interview, researchers interviewed participants every 6 months for the first 3 years and annually thereafter. The follow-up interviews addressed illegal behaviors; the circumstance surrounding those behaviors; and changes in life situations, functional capacities, and mental health symptoms. Psychosocial maturity was measured by an assessment of temperance, perspective, and responsibility. 3 figures and 26 references

Date Published: March 1, 2015