Graduation Year

2011

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Granting Department

Criminology

Major Professor

Michael J. Lynch

Co-Major Professor

Ojmarrh Mitchell

Keywords

Ethnicity, Life-course, Offending trajectories, Race, Risk factors

Abstract

The developmental and life-course criminology (DLC) paradigm has become increasingly popular over the last two decades. A primary limitation of this paradigm is the lack of consideration of race and ethnicity within its framework. Race unquestionably matters in today's society and yet it has generally been ignored within the context of DLC theories. The current study aims to contribute to the literature informing DLC by viewing life-course theories through the lens of race and ethnicity. Utilizing nationally-representative data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997, the current study examines race-specific developmental trajectories of offending over 11 years during the transition from adolescence to adulthood. The current study employs semiparametric group-based mixture modeling (SPGM) in order to assess heterogeneity in the development of offending both in general and across race and ethnicity. Racial and ethnic differences in offending trajectories are explored and the relevance of these findings is discussed in relation to extant DLC theories. Additionally, the current study explores the utility of theoretically relevant risk and protective factors for distinguishing between offending trajectories and examines whether or not the ability of these factors to distinguish trajectories varies across race and ethnicity. In examining the generality of risk factors across offending trajectories, the current research also explores the utility of general versus developmental theories of offending.

The results of the current study indicate that there are stark similarities in the number and patterns of offending trajectories that emerge across race and ethnicity. Additionally, the current study finds support for both general and race-specific effects regarding the ability of risk and protective factors to distinguish offending trajectories. The finding that some risk factors have race-specific effects has implications for DLC theories which predict racial invariance in the causal processes that influence offending throughout the life-course. Additionally, the current study finds little evidence of trajectory-specific etiologies across the full study sample. This finding supports general over developmental theories and is consistent with prior research which indicates that risk factors are best able to distinguish between offenders and non-offenders rather than between offenders who follow divergent developmental trajectories. Overall, the current study findings contribute to the growing body of empirical research examining key DLC issues in the context of race and ethnicity.

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