Life-Course and Integrated Theories

Life-course criminology focuses on the development of antisocial behavior, risk factors at different ages, and the effect of life events on individual development. Theories are constructed using longitudinal data. Patterson’s developmental perspective on antisocial behavior identifies a series of predictable steps that lead to chronic delinquency and advocates prevention through early intervention. Moffit has identified two pathways to crime for young offenders. Adolescent-limited delinquents age out of delinquency in late adolescence or early adulthood whereas life- course-persistent offenders continue to break the law into adulthood. Laub and Sampson emphasize the importance of social bonds to pro-social individuals and organizations as the key element keeping people from crime, and identify key turning points that prompt individuals to desist from crime.

Integrated theories bring together several theories to explain more types of antisocial behavior. Elliott and colleagues merged strain, self-control, and social learning concepts into an organized theory that explains how the problems described by each concept interact to produce crime. Thornberry’s interactional theory incorporates social learning, social bonds, and the life-course perspective to explain delinquency. A key element of this theory is the reciprocal nature of these influences. Tittle’s control-balance theory emphasizes the need to maintain a balance of control, suggesting that individuals who have a control deficit or surplus are more likely to break the law and engage in antisocial behavior. Cullen’s social support theory constructs an integrated theory around the theme of social support found in many other theories, looking at social support at both the macro and micro levels. Agnew’s general theory of crime and delinquency incorporates his earlier general strain theory along with other theoretical perspectives to emphasize five life domains that interact to enhance an individual’s risk of being drawn into antisocial behavior. Farrington’s theory integrates a large number of classic criminological theories to identify elements that affect an individual’s antisocial potential, or a person’s potential to break the law by engaging in antisocial behavior.