Promoting desistance among young people

Authored by: Monica Barry

Youth Justice Handbook

Print publication date:  October  2009
Online publication date:  February  2014

Print ISBN: 9781843927174
eBook ISBN: 9781315820064
Adobe ISBN: 9781317821755


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‘Youthful’ offending is a common and, many would say, natural aspect of growing up, despite the differing theories – biological, social, cultural and political – that attempt to understand its causes in more specific terms. Across the developed world, crime and age have a strong correlation, depicted by the ‘age–crime curve’ which sees offending start in the early teens, peak between 16 and 18 years, and then decline rapidly into the early twenties (Blumstein et al. 1988; Farrington 1997). But while the literature on youth offending has all but exhausted the reasons why young people start offending, there has been a dearth of literature until recently on why young people stop offending. This chapter focuses on that latter phenomenon, known as desistance, and in particular desistance among young people as they reach their late teens and early twenties. It is argued here that only in understanding young people’s attempts to stop offending can practitioners help those who are willing to adopt alternative and more constructive lifestyles.

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