Explanations for Offending

Terence P. Thornberry, Peggy C. Giordano, Christopher Uggen, Mauri Matsuda, Ann S. Masten, Erik Bulten, Andrea G. Donker

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

13 Scopus citations


This chapter discusses the current theoretical models that have been developed to explain criminal offending during the transition years between adolescence and adulthood. The chapter first identifies the key aspects of offending that typify the transition years, including desistance from delinquency, persistence in offending from adolescence to adulthood, and late onset offending. The chapter then reviews how major theories of delinquency and crime attempt to explain these divergent patterns of offending. In particular, it discusses static or population heterogeneity models, dynamic or state dependence models, social psychological theories, the developmental psychopathology perspective, and, finally, biopsychosocial theory. In each case the chapter discusses the theory's assumptions and core propositions with a particular focus on propositions concerning offending during early adulthood. The chapter also reviews the empirical literature that has tested each of these theories. Although there are is considerable overlap across these different theoretical perspectives, each offers a unique perspective about how the transition from adolescence to adulthood influences offending and how, in turn, offending influences the timing and success of the transition to adulthood. It closes by discussing policy implications of these different theoretical orientations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationFrom Juvenile Delinquency to Adult Crime: Criminal Careers, Justice Policy and Prevention
Subtitle of host publicationCriminal Careers, Justice Policy and Prevention
EditorsR. Loeber, D. P. Farrington
Place of PublicationNew York, NY
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780199951208
ISBN (Print)9780199828166
StatePublished - Sep 20 2012

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2012 by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved.


  • Biopsychosocial perspective
  • Desistance
  • Developmental psychopathology
  • Developmental/life-course
  • Late bloomers
  • Population heterogeneity
  • Social psychology
  • State dependence
  • Theory


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