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Criminal Careers in the Short-Term: Intra-Individual Variability in Crime and Its Relation to Local Life Circumstances

NCJ Number
American Sociological Review Volume: 60 Issue: 5 Dated: October 1995 Pages: 655-673
Date Published
October 1995
19 pages

This study examined short-term variations in offending and life circumstances to understand the changes in criminal behavior.


Highlights from this study on the relationship between offending and life circumstances and its effect on criminal behavior include the following: the odds of starting to offend for individuals were twice as high after probation or parole stops as after supervision started; and the odds of change in offending basically doubled following a change in life circumstance such as marriage, employment or drug use. The study also found that use of drugs was related to all four measures of offending: any crime, property crime, assault, and drug crime, and that illegal drug use substantially increased the odds of committing a property crime by 54 percent and committing an assault by 100 percent. In addition, the study found that living with a wife was associated with lower levels of offending while living with a girlfriend was associated with higher levels of offending. Data for this study were obtained from interviews with 658 newly convicted male offenders sentenced to the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services during a 9-month period from 1989-1990. Information was obtained on participants' various life circumstances for the period that included the months up to and including the month of arrest for the calendar year of the arrest and the 2 calendar years preceding the arrest. Statistical analyses were conducted to determine the degree to which changes in various life circumstances affected the odds of offending. The findings suggest that involvement in crime in the short-term is strongly related to variations in local life circumstances and that when individual differences combine with shifting social environments different levels of criminal activity occur. Study limitations are discussed. Tables, figure, and references

Date Published: October 1, 1995