The development of offending

The main aim of my Emeritus Fellowship is to write articles on the development of offending through life. I am analysing data collected in the Cambridge Study in Delinquent Development, which is a follow-up survey of 411 London males. I began to work on the Study in 1969 and took over as director of it in 1982.

At the time they were first contacted in 1961–62 at age 8, the males were all living in a working-class area of South London. The males were interviewed and tested in their schools when they were aged about 8, 10 and 14. They were then interviewed in our research office at about 16, 18 and 21, and in their homes at about 25, 32 and 48. Information was also collected from their parents and teachers, and from criminal records. Remarkably for a forty-year follow-up, ninety-three per cent of men who were still alive were re-interviewed at age 48.

Most recently, a Third Generation Follow-Up has been mounted to interview the adult children of the Study males. These children are referred to as Generation 3 (G3), whereas the males themselves are called Generation 2 (G2) and the males’ parents are called Generation 1 (G1). Over five hundred G3 children have been interviewed at an average age of twenty-five.

Iam writing papers on:

1. The intergenerational transmission of official and self-reported offending.
I am investigating the intergenerational transmission of convictions (between G1 and G2, and between G2 and G3). The intergenerational transmission of self-reported offending has never been studied before and is being studied between G2 and G3. I am aiming to discover factors that might mediate intergenerational transmission, in order to identify targets for intervention.

2. Why do some children from high-risk backgrounds nevertheless lead successful lives?
I am investigating G2 children from high-risk backgrounds who had successful, compared with unsuccessful lives, and also G3 children from high-risk backgrounds who had successful versus unsuccessful lives. My aim is to identify key protective factors that might be used as the basis for intervention programmes to prevent intergenerational transmission.

3. The financial cost of criminal careers.
I am using information about the self-reported and official offending of G2 males in different age ranges, together with Home Office estimates of the financial costs of different types of crimes, to estimate the financial cost of complete criminal careers. I am calculating scaling-up factors from convictions to self-reported offending, as well as the differential costs of different types of offenders (e.g. violent and prolific offenders). These kinds of analyses have never been carried out before; previous research on the cost of crime has been based only on official records. They will help in calculating more accurate benefit to cost ratios of intervention programmes.

Through all of these analyses, I hope not only to advance fundamental knowledge about development but also to draw policy implications about effective ways to reduce offending.

Professor David Farrington