The Implications for Desistance of the Developmental Course of Childhood Aggressive Behavior

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One of the most important goals for criminological research is to further our understanding of the concept of desistance. Challenges in defining and measuring desistance have been exacerbated by the lack of theoretical foundations to guide inquiry and empirical research. To date, only a few predictors have been empirically identified, and all of them are exclusively relevant to adulthood. An important objective for desistance research, then, is to identify factors associated with earlier desistance. This research endeavors to meet this objective by specifying a conceptual model relating the developmental course of early childhood aggression to offending behavior during adolescence and early adulthood. The relationships proposed by the conceptual model are assessed using a longitudinal measure of aggression and analytic techniques designed to assess change in development over time. An additional extension of existing research is the comparison of these relationships for boys and girls.

Data come from Johns Hopkins University's Prevention Intervention Research Center's school-based interventions trials in Baltimore City Schools. Participants comprise an epidemiologically defined sample of urban, primarily African-American, first grade boys and girls. Results suggest that some pathways to desistance may be identified before adulthood, thus supporting the notion that examinations of early development have utility for informing our understanding of later processes.