Research on Pathways to Desistance Issue Brief
Give Adolescents the Time and Skills to Mature, and Most Offenders Will Stop
"The Pathways to Desistance study is a multi-site, longitudinal study of serious adolescent offenders as they transition from adolescence into early adulthood ... [It] looks at the factors that led these youths to commit serious crimes and to continue or stop offending. Sections of this brief explain that: adolescents, including serious juvenile offenders, naturally mature psychologically, socially, and cognitively over time; 9% of persistent juvenile offenders continue criminal behavior as adults; there is a lot of variation in how juvenile offenders mature; prediction about future offending should be based on maturity patterns not offending severity or frequency; and serious juvenile offenders need help learning the psychosocial skills they need for a law-abiding adult life.
Programs that Promote Positive Development Can Help Young Offenders Grow Up and Out of Crime
Issues related to the impact of an adolescent's level of maturity on future offending are discussed. In particular, ways to help serious juvenile offenders acquire the skills they need to live crime-free in the community. This report explains why: serious juvenile offenders, like their non-offending counterparts, vary in their patterns of development; most serious juvenile offenders are not on the road to persistent adult offending; multiple components of maturity are related to reduced offending; and reducing offending means not simply restricting opportunities to offend but expanding opportunities to grow. "Analyses of the Pathways study confirm that, while part of the equation involves natural changes in thinking, such as impulse control and considering the consequences of one’s actions, other factors also play important roles. It appears that programs that promote an examination of one’s thoughts and actions (such as cognitive behavioral therapy), combined with opportunities to practice and internalize that thinking (such as employment), can help young offenders mature and significantly reduce their offending" (p. 1).