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How Does the Life Course Perspective Explain Crime?
The life course criminology is a significant social development theory that suggests that human development simultaneously takes place on numerous levels including psychological, biological, cultural, societal, familial, interpersonal and ecological (Schmalleger, 2008). The life course perspective assumes that criminal behavior tends to follow a unique pattern in the course of one’s life cycle. Life course refers to the various pathways that take place under the age-differentiated life span. In this regard, criminality is reasonably uncommon during childhood, tends to manifest itself in the form of delinquency during late adolescence and early adulthood, and then diminishes and occasionally disappears entirely from an individual’s behavior by the age of 30 or 40. Therefore, a person develops criminal behavior because of the obstacles and risks associated with transitions from childhood to adulthood (Schmalleger, 2008).
How is this Perspective Different from the Traditional Focus on Crime?
Schmalleger (2008) asserts that traditional theories on crime and delinquency do not involve a developmental perspective because they do not take into consideration the changes that take place in the course of a person’s life and fail to differentiate the various phases of criminal careers. On the contrary, the life course perspective, a social developmental theory, takes into account the fact that criminal behavior follows a unique pattern in the course of a person’s life. In addition, the life course perspective shifted the traditional focus from the primary reasons why people develop criminal behaviors to questions regarding the dimensions of criminal behavior over the entire life course (Schmalleger, 2008).
What Four Dimensions Does the Life Course Perspective Use when Describing Criminal Careers, and what do they Involve?
According to Schmalleger (2008), the four dimensions used by the life course perspective in describing crime include participation, frequency, duration, seriousness and frequency. Participation entails the proportion of the population that is criminally active and depends on the extent of criminal acts taken into account and the duration of the observation period. Frequency involves the number of criminal acts committed by an offender in a given unit of time; frequency usually varies over the different phases of the life course of an offender. Duration involves the length of the criminal career, and seriousness involves the gravity of the crime, that is, petty crimes to a high degree of seriousness (Schmalleger, 2008).