Do individual characteristics explain variation in sanction risk updating among serious juvenile offenders? Advancing the logic of differential deterrence.

Kyle J. Thomas, Thomas A. Loughran, Alex R. Piquero

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)


Recent theoretical and empirical research in deterrence has detected evidence of differential deterrability, or that the effect of sanctions is not uniform across persons. Important questions in this area remain to be explored, and this study considered a central question: Whether important across-individual variability in risk perceptions can be tied to important individual-level factors. This article extends the Bayesian risk updating model developed by Anwar and Loughran (2011) to determine whether the weight individuals place on new offending information differs across persons on the basis of individual characteristics. Using longitudinal data from a sample of serious youthful offenders, we found that the effect of an arrest on updated risk perceptions differs as a function of IQ and early behavioral problems. In particular, individuals low in verbal IQ and those who display early behavioral problems place greater weight on new information, suggesting that individuals who are traditionally viewed as being high in criminal propensity are more affected by arrest such that they are more likely to increase their perceived risk of getting caught when offending after experiencing an arrest. Findings support the idea that high-propensity offenders are more responsive to formal sanctions, and thus (potentially) more deterrable, than low-propensity individuals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10-21
Number of pages12
JournalLaw and Human Behavior
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • arrest
  • deterrence
  • individual characteristics
  • updating

Cite this