Crime and deviance: Age

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Sources of data

  • Official statistics and self report studies show that young people commit the most offences - teenagers and adults in their early 20's. 

Official statistics

  • Highest offending rate for males in England and Wales in 2002 - 19. 
  • Females - 15.
  • Theft - most common crime by young people. 
  • Pattern: Offending rises steeply ages 10 to 18, then declines sharply age 24 and declined slowly from there. This applies to males, females and ethnic minorites generally.

Evaluation of official statistics

  • They provide information of only a small number of offenders - only 3% of BCS crimes resulted in conviction - Barclay and Tavares
  • We can't assume all offenders are the same as known offenders - can't generalise as the sample is small. 
  • May exaggerate the proportion of young offenders - young people are more likely to offend in groups and in public, so are more likely to be apprehended. And the crimes the tend to commit (burglary, car theft etc.) are more likely to be reported. 

Self-report studies

  • Mirror official statistics. 

Evaluation of self-report studies

  • Research shows that most people are prepared to admit to offences when asked to take part in confidential self-report studies. They reveal more offences than official statistics - Smith.
  • However, typically they focus on male juvenile delinquency, and the questions reflect this - they omit 'hidden crimes' and adult crime like domestic abuse. This means they provide only a partial view of crime, a little distorted. 

Explanations for the age-crime curve

Control theory

  • What stops people committing crime is social bonds, meaning we have too much to lose. 
  • Most children have strong bonds with their parents, most adults have strong bonds with people like friends, colleagues, family etc. 
  • However, many young…


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