Wikstrom - Peterborough Study

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To identify key individual and environmental factors which foster or deter offending during adolescence. (It is an ongoing study)

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It was a longitudinal and cross-sectional study. 

Data was collected annually from over 2000 young people in Peterborough aged 14-15 (in year 10).

The study covered three main topics:

The individual (his/her individual and social characteristics and experiences)

The environment (Social characteristics of different small area environments of Peterborough)

Individuals' exposure to different environments (hours spent in different kinds of social settings) 

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-Retrospective parents questionnaire

-An annual young persons questionnaire

-Psychometric excercises.

-Space-time budgets


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3 Types of offenders:

Propensity Induced Offenders: Youths who are poorly adjusted and likely to have a high overall offending level regardless of lifestyle risk - mostly high. Offending may result more from individual dispositions then situational factors.

Lifestyle Dependent Offenders: Average social adjustment. They run the highest risk of frequent offending if they have a high risk lifestyle. Whether their propensity will materialise in offending depends on if they have a lifestyle that brings them into frequent contact with risky situations. Peer influence is strong.

Situationally Limited Offenders: Well adjusted youth who may occaisionally offend if living a risky lifestyle. This is done without a great risk of leading a crminal career. Offending is mostly due to situational factors.

Developmental effects: Those with greater parental care and stronger school bonds exhibit greater levels of morality and self-control regardless of social class.

Individual variables: Weak morality and low self-control predicted offending.

Social variables: Researchers found that exposure to criminogenic environments was related to offending and not directly poverty itself. Neighbourhood disadvantage was linked to the presence of criminogenic environments (broken window theory). Not the fact ones lives in poverty, it's that fact one is exposed (and the time spent in) to criminogenic environments.

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Conclusion + Application

Individual and environmental factors both have a significant impact on offending. Therefore, this is an explanation that considers both individual and situational factors for crime.

Poverty and living in a disadvantaged neigbourhood are not themselves causes of criminal activity. They increase the environmental factors that and individual is exposed to but the individual's morality and self control levels are also important in whether a person puts themselves in to an environment where they are likely to commit crime.


The study can inform the policy and practice of local authorities because it gives a unique look into young people, their offending behaviour and the environments in which they occur. This understanding could lead into the implementation of intervention schemes and youth clubs (e.g. Sure Start). As well as prevention strategies.

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Evaluation Points

Determinism: This could be argued from both ways. On one hand, you could argue that this study is determinist because of the influences from the environment you live in and your exposure to criminogenic influences. If you have a certain risk factors (e.g. weak school bonds, high-risk lifestyle and individually propensed to crime) you are more likely to turn to crime. On the other hand, individual differences are acknowledged such as the types of offenders.)

Holistic: This study takes into account both individual and social factors that can contribute to criminality. It does not focus on just one issue but looks at a variety of factors such as the time one spends with criminal influences, school achievement, social adjustment, propensity to crime, impulsivity levels, parental care etc. Doesn't force just one view.

Nature and nuture: Due to the holistic nature of this study, it can be said that the study balances both sides of the debate equally and that they complement each other.

Individual and Situational: Again, see above, since it looks at individual and situational factors, it makes sense to say that the study suggests turning to crime is both situational and dispositional.

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Evaluation Points ctd

Validity: Self-report was used in this study which may decrease validity of reports as young people may have lied about their criminal activity to present a better image or exaggerated it to look cooler. (social desirability bias). This would not provide an accurate reflection of the participants true extent of activity and their thoughts. It was a subjective measurement.

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