Crime, criminal careers and social control: A methodological analysis of economic choice and social control theories of crime.
AuthorBritt, Chester Lamont, III.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThis study tests the validity of two theories of crime: economic choice (as manifest in the criminal career paradigm) and social control. The test of these two theories is primarily methodological, in that four types of crime data (official and longitudinal (Uniform Crime Reports), official and cross-sectional (Bail Decisionmaking Study), self-report and longitudinal (National Youth Survey), and self-report and cross-sectional (Seattle Youth Study)) and a variety of graphical and statistical techniques are used to compare findings on (1) the stability of the age distribution of crime, (2) the prevalence of offense specialization, and (3) the differences in the causes of participating in crime compared to the causes of frequency of criminal activity among those individuals committing crimes. The findings on the relation between age and crime show the general shape of the age-crime curve is stable across year of the data or curve, type of data, cohort, and age group. The tests for offense specialization reveal that offenders are versatile. An individual's current offense type is not predictable, with much accuracy, on the basis of prior offending. Again, the lack of offense specialization held across type of data, but age, race, and gender distinctions also failed to alter significantly the observed pattern of versatility. Findings on the causes of participation in crime and frequency of criminal activity among active offenders showed only trivial differences in the set of statistically significant predictors for each operationalization of crime and delinquency. Two distinct operationalizations of frequency also showed no substantial difference in the set of statistically significant predictors. Similar to the findings on age and crime, and offense specialization, the pattern of results for the participation and frequency analyses held across type of data. In sum, the results tended to support the predictions of social control theory over those of the economic choice-criminal career view of crime.