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Parsing apart the persisters: Etiological mechanisms and criminal offense patterns of moderate- and high-level persistent offenders

  • Jamie Amemiya (a1), Susan Vanderhei (a1) and Kathryn C. Monahan (a1)

Longitudinal investigations that have applied Moffitt's dual taxonomic framework to criminal offending have provided support for the existence of adolescent-limited and life-course persistent antisocial individuals, but have also identified additional trajectories. For instance, rather than a single persistent trajectory, studies have found both high-level and moderate-level persistent offenders. To inform theory and progress our understanding of chronic antisocial behavior, the present study used a sample of serious adolescent offenders (N =1,088) followed from middle adolescence to early adulthood (14–25 years), and examined how moderate-level persistent offenders differed from low-rate, desisting, and high-level persistent offenders. Results indicated that moderate-level persisters' etiology and criminal offense patterns were most similar to high-level persisters, but there were notable differences. Specifically, increasing levels of contextual adversity characterized both moderate-level and high-level persisting trajectories, but moderate-level persisters reported consistently lower levels of environmental risk. While both high- and moderate-level persisters committed more drug-related offenses in early adulthood compared to adolescence, moderate-level persisters engaged in lower levels of antisocial behavior across all types of criminal offenses. Taken cumulatively, the findings of this study suggest that sociocontextual interventions may be powerful in reducing both moderate- and high-level persistence in crime.

Corresponding author
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Jamie Amemiya, Department of Psychology, University of Pittsburgh, 210 South Bouquet Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15260; E-mail:
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The project described was supported by funds from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, National Institute of Justice, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, William T. Grant Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, William Penn Foundation, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute on Drug Abuse Grant R01DA019697, Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, and the Arizona Governor's Justice Commission. We are grateful for their support. However, the content of this paper is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of these agencies.

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