Criminology Wiki

The life course perspective is a broad approach that can be used in a variety of subject matters such as psychology, biology, history, and criminology. As a theory, the denotation establishes the connection between a pattern of life events and the actions that humans perform.

 In the criminology field, the life-course theory is used as a backbone factor throughout childhood is the one parent household case in which studies have shown cause a higher risk for criminal activity later in one’s life. The adaptation to social bonds and institutions are factors in the adolescence phase. When adolescents are able to excel in institutions such as schools, churches, and community centers their less likely to resort to criminal activities to occupy their time. Factors for adults include marriage, children, and employment. Adults that are involved with their families and their careers are less likely to pursue crime compared to those who are not. The factors, or experiences, throughout human life aid in the life-course theory’s attempt to explain why certain individuals are more prone to a life of crime while others have a lower probability. Thus, these factors force consistent interaction between individuals and their surroundings that fundamentally create a particular lifestyle that could lead to a life of crime if these factors are negative. In general, the accepted notion is that the factors occurring at a younger stage in life are predominately influential on crime risk than later life experiences. As a result of this idea, the life-course theory works closely with developmental theories to reinforce explanation s of crime occurrences. In regards to criticism of the theory, the question that has arouse is “whether life-course criminology has produced new general theories or rather represents ways of pulling in concepts and propositions from exhausting theories at different ages or stages of life”

 (Ronald, Sellers 2009). Put plainly, is the theory simply too broad? The consensus deciding that the life-course model expands on the general criminological theories including learning, strain, control, and rational change.

  As a result of this conclusion, the term ‘theoretical integration’ is often used when discussing life-course theory.

The main study to test the validity of the life-course theory was conducted by Laub and Sampson, who extraordinarily were able to follow the participants for an extremely long period of time which is a difficult task to accomplish in the social science field. Laub and Sampson were able to use the research brought forth by criminologist Eleanor Glueck’s study on the criminal life style in young adults io their investigation. Their goal was to prove that in life, essential turning points (or as they called them trajectories) are hugely influential in determining one’s risk of succumbing to crime. The two theorists followed the same participants that were part of Glueck’s thesis and made sure the life history of said participants was as comprehensive as possible with particular focus on the crucial trajectories such as marriage and employment. With this project, Sampson and Laub ultimately ended up contradicting one of criminology’s most popular theorists, Travis Hirschi, by stating “criminality is not a constant, but affected by the larger social forces which change over a life-course” (Yeager).

When putting the theory into practice, key assumptions should be acknowledge. An assumption made continually by life-course theory supporters regards human behavior as being affected by nurture rather than nature. The theory recognizes that not one human is identical, but instead establishes that there are typical life phrases that are experienced in typical patterns. Within these patterns there are social passages that one goes through, and thus, must adhere to the implied social contract established in society. So, through these assumptions implications can be made that social institutions such as families and schools are vital for development throughout one’s life. These social institutions face challenges when key components such as parents are missing in the equations. If a parent(s) is missing due to incarceration theirchild(s) are at a higher risk for engaging in criminal behavior based on several theories including life- course. While intertwining developmental theories with the life-course perspective, developmental theorist shavscome to find that the social impact of society with high incarcerationsrates is significant. The findings show a clear negative impact resulting inta vicious cycle. To tackle these factors the rehabilitation approach may be a better solution versus an approach such as restitution. With the rehabilitation approach ,the goal would be to restore and reconnect offenders back into society with the hopes that eventually they will be honorable citizens.


Bouffard, L. A., & Piquero, N. L. (2010). Defiance theory and life course explanations of

persistent offending . Crime & Delinquency, 56(2), 227-252.

DePadilla, L., Elifson, K. W., Perkins, M. M., & Sterk, C. E. (2012). Adult criminal involvement: A cross-section inquiry into correlates and mechanisms over the life course. Criminal Justice Review, 37(1), 110-126.

Kok, J. (2007). Principles and prospects of the life course paradigm. ANNALES DE DÉMOGRAPHIE HISTORIQUE , Retrieved from

Sampson, R. L., & Laub, J. H. (2005). A life-course view of the development of crime. Annals of the american academy of political and social science, 602, 12-45.

Yeager, M. (n.d.). A partial test of life-course theory on a prison release cohort . (Master's thesis)Retrieved from