Aggregating to versatility? Transitions among offender types in the short term

Jean Marie McGloin, Christopher J. Sullivan, Alex R. Piquero

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52 Citations (Scopus)


Empirical work consistently shows that offenders demonstrate diverse offending profiles over the life-course, but recent research also reveals indications of specialization in the short term. One way to reconcile these findings is the proposal that offenders favour certain offence types during the short term, largely because of opportunity structures, but that because of changing situations and contexts over the life-course, their offending profiles aggregate to versatility over the criminal career. The current inquiry also proposes that a particular analytic technique, latent transition analysis (LTA), is especially well suited for investigating this premise. This method both (1) derives latent classes of offender 'types' from the data, as well as (2) assesses the level and type of transitions among these types over time. We provide an empirical example that demonstrates the utility of this method and investigates the tenability of this view of specialization. Results emerging from life-event history self-report data on offending garnered from incarcerated felons provide modest support for the idea that offenders have crime preferences in relatively narrow time periods, but that they transition over time, thus suggesting a tendency to 'aggregate to versatility'. The discussion considers the implications of these findings as well as offers some key points for future research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)243-264
Number of pages22
JournalThe British Journal of Criminology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2009

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