Developmental Criminology and Its Contributions


Development criminology refers to the study of criminal behaviors and the factors that lead people to participate or exhibit such characteristics at various times or ages in their lifetime. The majority of criminologists who focus on the field possess an academic background in psychology, sociology, or social work. Since the area seeks to find reasons that cause the defiant behavior, those working in law enforcement, as a probation, corrections or parole officers as well require to comprehend the principles of developmental criminology. This way, it is easier to evaluate, manage as well as correct criminal activities. This paper examines developmental criminology and its contribution to the understanding of criminal careers.

Developmental Criminology

In order to understand criminal careers, one has to fully comprehend the idea of developmental criminology. The concept has its basis in positivity social science and mainstream criminology (Thornberry, 2020). It studies the relationship between psychological, biological, and social factors and offending from birth to demise, that is, across the life course (Defoe, 2021). A foundational assumption is that some of the issues people grow up with that happened in their past impact how they behave presently. This can be the ongoing effects of previous experiences, including sexual abuse or happy childhood. Therefore, developmental criminologists deny conventional strategies that emphasize between-group variances in favor of research on within-individual alterations in offending in relation to modifications in various factors.

Developmental criminology is dominated by quantitative techniques that seek to determine relationships between developmental procedures as well as offending. Much emphasis has been placed on the utilization of longitudinal study with repeated measurements to understand correlations amongst risk factors, for example, poverty, abuse or subsequent offending. Popular studies consist of the Cambridge Study on Delinquent Development in the United Kingdom and the Pittsburg Youth Study in the United States (Laub and Sampson, 2020). Cyril Burt was an early influence in the area and his investigation of adolescent offending in the 20s. Since that time, the interest in the ideology has grown and expanded to where it is currently.

A major issue in the 80s was the association between offending and age. The argument that the latter matures individuals out of criminal activities seemed to be supported by the overall tendency for offenders to minimize their rate of committing crime as they get older. It was claimed that a number of people are more susceptible to indulge in such actions than others (Laub and Sampson, 2020). This is especially due to their family socialization in the initial few years of life had been unable to establish in them an adequately strong capacity for self-control. The susceptibility to offend does not change over time as one age, with crime-prone people doing more illicit activities at any age.

Critics of this standpoint claimed that crime projections or pathways called criminal careers, are more varied than as suggested. According to them, it is necessary to have different models for exploring such procedures as age of criminal activity onset, frequency, duration, participation levels as well as desistance from crime. This is while recognizing the various influences at numerous life stages and phases of criminal careers (Lösel, 2018). Both psychological and social factors after the early years such as peer influences and parenting practices, are greatly impactful. Inability to have self-control is only one example of the risk factors.


Developmental Criminology Informs That an Advanced Degree Can Make a Difference

The concept of developmental criminology informs much about the criminal careers, for instance, advanced degrees are important as they make a difference. The majority of the professions require that an individual acquires a specialized academic degree. A job candidate usually needs a master’s degree or a Ph.D. in criminology, sociology, criminal justice, law enforcement, social work or psychology. To understand the root cause of someone’s behaviors while they are adults, it is important to have a foundation in psychology (Moffitt, 2017). This is the reason behind being viewed as the justice field’s psychologists since they apply a peculiar comprehension of human behavior to aid in reducing crime rate.

Both areas of psychology and criminology are closely associated as they depend on the comprehension of people’s behavior. Experts in the former field specialize in knowing how humans processing data and decision-making can be impacted by factors such as biological disorders, trauma, lifestyle choices and changing environments. Similarly, a criminologist strives to comprehend what forces influence criminal activities. The two fields assist people as well as society in maintaining peace and order by knowing why some individuals are making wrong choices that ultimately affect those in their surroundings. The more one advances in their education, they get a better understanding of such concepts.

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, courses or programs in research methods and statistics are essential for both master’s as well as Ph.D. candidates. Both sociologists and criminologists usually work in the same areas (Lussier, McCuish and Corrado, 2020). Therefore, an advanced degree in one of the two is advantageous when assessing, researching, and evaluating developmental criminology. Some forensic experts utilize the concept to appraise patterns of deviant behavior (McGee et al., 2021). A probation officer, parole officer and a lawyer are dependent on such studies to establish whether or not first-time criminals have a chance to participate in wrong activities in future.

The overall rate of repeating offenses among males is sixty-five percent and fifty-four percent for females. African Americans are responsible for fourteen percent of all the sentences, and have the highest recidivism rate of every racial group at seventy-four percent (Lussier, McCuish and Corrado, 2020). Native Americans account for two percent of the total sentences and had a sixty-nine percent chance of re-offending (Lussier, McCuish and Corrado, 2020). Whites received more than seventy percent of the sentences with a sixty percent chance of committing crime again (Lussier, McCuish and Corrado, 2020). Contrary to popular belief, the average age of first-time criminals was slightly higher than that of repeat offenders. Women seemed to engage in criminal activities at later ages, for instance, in their 30s, which is similar to men (Lussier, McCuish and Corrado, 2020). Delinquents between thirty-five and forty-four years old received twenty-four percent of verdicts and had the most likelihood of repeating.

Developmental Criminology Informs That Strong Skills Are Important in Criminal Careers

Both sociologists and criminologists do surveys and complete study projects to establish which factors impact the criminal behavior. For instance, they might evaluate how an individual’s age, family history, background, gender, race, socioeconomic status or geographic location influences behavioral traits (McCuish and Lussier, 2018). Strong skills such as critical thinking, analytical, communication and positive people skills, are essential in the careers in criminal justice. They ought to assess statistical information, interview subjects effectively as well as identify sociological issues that usually result in aberrant behaviorisms.

In criminal justice, the skill to communicate proficiently can cause a difference in tense circumstances. Officers of the law have to be good communicators in order to maintain peace and order, protect the public, and collect data that can aid in catching criminals. Learning to do that effectively includes understanding how to notice indicators of dispute, prevent as well as resolve them. Joining law enforcement offers one a chance to be valuable in society. Both verbal and written communication skills are critical for someone to succeed in criminal justice.

Finding solutions for criminal justice issues needs the coordinating skills of various experts within a restricted time frame. As a professional, one does not always understand the details of all disciplines. However, they have to absorb as well as apply relevant data as it becomes available. This ultimately relies on analytical skills developed by an individual. Known agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) use numerous experts equipped with these capabilities. To synthesize information from various sources concerning a case needs someone who is advanced with regards to reasoning.

Not every case or assignment requires a multidisciplinary team, even in large agencies. An individual may receive one for personal projects that will need them to do the needed study and appraisal as well as produce a report. Lastly, promoting critical thinking skills among criminologists is an important part of preparing them to maneuver complex and uncertain social lives. It becomes much easier for them to serve the people as they can analyze criminal cases in the society and understand ways to prevent repeat offenses.

Developmental Criminology Informs That Educators Play an Important Role in Criminal Careers

There are careers in developmental criminology that focus on the education system. A law enforcement educator, criminology and sociology professors, government planning agents as well as private criminal justice investigators require a great comprehension of how developmental factors lead to criminal behaviorisms. Educators at any level, that is, local, regional or national, start initiatives to address violent crimes, gangs, truancy, juvenile delinquency, and theft. By accomplishing this, the criminal justice field is assisted in ensuring that peace and order returns to the public. Additionally, teachers are closer to the people than law enforcement agencies which makes it easier for them to understand why certain activities are happening. In addition to that, they have the chance to know why first-time offenders are susceptible to re-offending.

Given the different aspects of discussion that involves the role of education in reducing recidivism, many individuals claim that the government needs to resume its long-standing guideline. The policy involved releasing a fraction of Pell Grants as well as other types of fiscal aid to eligible incarcerated persons (Yohros and Welsh, 2019). They claim that the advantages of such practice will always outweigh the protests by the public against it.

The focus of the arguments is that restarting the initiative would greatly lower the rates of re-offending and save states much money every year. There appears to be awe-inspiring consensus amongst many individuals that postsecondary education is a cost-effective technique and most successful of reducing crime. Nevertheless, this usually becomes scandalous when a single person begins to apply the ideologies to those who have committed unlawful doings already. Close to two million people are found in correctional facilities in the U.S. The Department of Justice depicts an offender as uneducated and impoverished before incarceration.

The majority of the researchers would claim that psychological, social as well as demographic factors correlate much with re-offending. Most people are released from jail into communities while lacking skills and more likely to participate in criminal activities. The rate of recidivism in the United States is ridiculously high. Even though learning offered in jail has been discovered to be the most effective method of lowering re-offending, currently, the programs are near nonexistent. Many Americans would claim that it is better and more efficient than shock incarceration, vocational training, or boot camps.

Various legislators as well as policymakers in an attempts to respond to the public’s increasing fear of criminal activities, have suggested for construction of additional prisons, removing different initiatives in the facilities, and harsher punishments. With the rate of rearrests growing nearly on a daily basis, it is obvious that incarceration only has failed to work in the country. Studies have shown that quality education is among the most effective forms of preventing crime (Boman IV and Mowen, 2018). They have as well revealed that educational skills can aid in deterring the youth from indulging in unlawful doings and significantly decrease the chance that individuals will return to offending.

In spite of the proof of the effectiveness, educational programs in prisons have in many instances been fully removed. As of 2008, close to two million people were imprisoned in correctional facilities in the country as well as about one hundred thousand juveniles (Yohros and Welsh, 2019). Most of the inmates were released unskilled, low levels of education, and more likely to reoffend. With many of the first-time offender returning to jail, it would appear that the punitive, incarceration-oriented strategy has failed. Thus, it is unsurprising that a great number of people claim that the government needs to implement policies that are productive.


The paper has successfully examined the concept of developmental criminology and its contribution to the understanding of criminal careers. Through it, one learns that in order to understand the criminal careers, one has to fully comprehend the idea of developmental criminology. Some of the issues people grow up with that occurred in their past impact how they behave presently. This can be the ongoing effects of previous experiences, including sexual abuse or happy childhood. Therefore, developmental criminologists deny conventional strategies that emphasize between-group variances in favor of research on within-individual alterations in offending in relation to modifications in various factors.

The paper shows that developmental criminology informs that an advanced degree can make a difference for someone in a criminal career. The majority of the professions require that an individual acquires a specialized academic degree. A candidate applying for a job in criminal justice usually needs at least a master’s degree in criminology, sociology, criminal justice, law enforcement, social work or psychology. In addition to that, the concept helps someone to understand that strong skills can as well be important in the life of a professional in criminal careers. It is essential that one possesses skills such as critical thinking, analytical, communication and positive people skills.

Lastly, it has been seen that education can help prevent the chance of reoffending. Most people released from jail, are undereducated and unskilled which makes them choose to return to criminal activities such as selling drugs or stealing. It is vital that the government finds ways that the situation can be improved long term while ensuring public resources are not wasted. Individuals are prone to complaining and not showing support when the funds are misused or invested in projects with poor results.

Reference List

Boman IV, J.H. and Mowen, T.J. (2018) “The role of turning points in establishing baseline differences between people in developmental and life: Course criminology’, Criminology, 56(1), pp. 191-224. Web.

Defoe, I.N. (2021) ‘Towards a hybrid criminological and psychological model of risk behavior: the developmental neuro-ecological risk-taking model (DNERM)’, Developmental Review, 62, p. 100995. Web.

Laub, J.H. and Sampson, R.J. (2020) ‘Life-course and developmental criminology: looking back, moving forward—ASC division of developmental and life-course criminology inaugural David P. Farrington lecture, 2017’, Journal of Developmental and Life-Course Criminology, 6(2), pp. 158-171. Web.

Lösel, F. (2018) ‘Evidence comes by replication, but needs differentiation: the reproducibility issue in science and its relevance for criminology’, Journal of Experimental Criminology, 14(3), pp. 257-278. Web.

Lussier, P., McCuish, E. and Corrado, R. (2020) ‘Psychopathy and the prospective prediction of adult offending through age 29: revisiting unfulfilled promises of developmental criminology’, Journal of Criminal Justice, p. 101770. Web.

McCuish, E.C. and Lussier, P. (2018) ‘A developmental perspective on the stability and change of psychopathic personality traits across the adolescence–adulthood transition’, Criminal Justice and Behavior, 45(5), pp. 666-692. Web.

McGee, T.R., Whitten, T., Williams, C., Jolliffe, D. and Farrington, D.P. (2021)’ Classification of patterns of offending in developmental and life-course criminology, with special reference to persistence’, Aggression and Violent Behavior, 59, p. 101460. Web.

Moffitt, T.E. (2017) ‘Life-course-persistent versus adolescence-limited antisocial behavior’, In Developmental and Life-Course Criminological Theories (pp. 75-103). Routledge. Web.

Thornberry, T.P. (2020) ‘Intergenerational patterns in offending: lessons from the Rochester Intergenerational Study—ASC division of developmental and life course criminology David P. Farrington lecture, 2019’, Journal of Developmental and Life-Course Criminology, 6(4), pp. 381-397. Web.

Yohros, A. and Welsh, B.C. (2019) ‘Understanding and quantifying the scale-up penalty: a systematic review of early developmental preventive interventions with criminological outcomes’, Journal of Developmental and Life-Course Criminology, 5(4), pp. 481-497. Web.

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LawBirdie. "Developmental Criminology and Its Contributions." July 24, 2023.