Date of Degree

2007

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Criminal Justice

Advisor(s)

Michael White

Committee Members

Keith Marcus

James Lynch

Joshua Freilich

Subject Categories

Criminology

Abstract

Terrie Moffitt (1993) hypothesized that there will be three distinct types of juveniles: (1) Life-course-persistent offenders, who begin their antisocial behavior at a young age and continue to offend over their lives; (2) Adolescence-limited offenders, who are involved in criminal behavior only through their adolescent years, and; (3) Abstainers, who do not engage in any delinquent behavior. This study tested both the theory and methodology using general growth mixture modeling.

The methodological results were conclusive whereas the theoretical ones were less clear. The different latent variable variance structures were freed and fixed to test the best model specifications to test Moffitt's taxonomic theory using general growth mixture modeling. Relaxing the variance restrictions both fits the theory and the data best, but the external validity of group membership is still uncertain.

The theoretical results provided partial support for her theory. While there were three groups, as anticipated by Moffitt, they did not fit her hypotheses about the size or the trajectory shape of the groups. The abstainer group fit her model but was made up of a much larger proportion of the. The adolescence-limited offenders made up a much small proportion of the sample than expected, and did not peak in late adolescence as predicted. The final group, the life-course-persistent offenders, did not match her theory in respect to the shape of their trajectories, but did constitute the proportion of the sample that she anticipated.

Moffitt's hypotheses about the correlates of group membership were somewhat confirmed. As Moffitt predicted, hyperactivity and concentration problems in childhood were related to the highest trajectory group, peer deviance in adolescence was related to the adolescence-limited offending groups, and a strong belief in social bonds was related to abstaining from delinquency. However, contrary to her theory, the early measures of psychological and family dysfunction were not found to be related to offending trajectories. The largest risk factors uncovered in this analysis were both measures that are easy to collect from classroom teachers, which make them practical for purposes of identifying children who could benefit from additional services.

Comments

Digital reproduction from the UMI microform.

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