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Empirical Examination of Competing Theories in Predicting Recidivism of Adult Offenders Five Years After Graduation From Boot Camp

NCJ Number
Journal of Offender Rehabilitation Volume: 37 Issue: 2 Dated: 2003 Pages: 43-75
Brent B. Benda; Nancy J. Toombs; Mark Peacock
Nathaniel J. Pallone
Date Published
33 pages
This study tested the elements of the social learning theory in competition with factors from general theory to determine how well they predicted recidivism among boot camp graduates in a 5-year follow-up.
This 5-year follow-up study examined 2 competing theories, social learning and general theory, in the prediction of recidivism among 572 male graduates of the only boot camp for adults in a Southern State. Social learning theory provides an explanation of deviant and felonious behaviors consisting of mechanisms that operate both to motivate and control these behaviors states with the general concept being peer association. The general theory of crime proposes that the operation of single mechanism, low self-control, accounts for all forms of deviant and criminal behavior. Results from the study do not support the general assumption that peer association mechanisms are primary influences on deviant and criminal behavior only during adolescence. To the contrary, the only element of the social learning theory of peer association that was not among the strongest predictors of recidivism among graduates of a boot camp for adults was modeling. The study found that these later elements of social learning theory were robust predictors of recidivism among young adults. The study suggests that peer influences remain important to deviant and criminal behavior extending into adulthood. The study also found that certain early experiences in life and personality traits were relevant to recidivism in adulthood. Because of the study’s limitations, these findings need to be replicated in other datasets by different researchers. Appendix and references