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Developmental Criminology and the Crime Decline

A Comparative Analysis of the Criminal Careers of Two New South Wales Birth Cohorts

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 October 2020

Jason L. Payne
Australian National University, Canberra
Alexis R. Piquero
University of Miami and Monash University


Throughout the 1990s many countries around the world experienced the beginnings of what would later become the most significant and protracted decline in crime ever recorded. Although not a universal experience, the so-called international crime-drop was an unpredicted and unprecedented event which now offers fertile ground for reflection on many of criminology's key theories and debates. Through the lens of developmental and life-course criminology, this Element compares the criminal offending trajectories of two Australian birth cohorts born ten years apart in 1984 and 1994. It finds that the crime-drop was unlikely the result of any significant change in the prevalence or persistence of early-onset and chronic offending, but the disproportionate disappearance of their low-rate, adolescent-onset peers. Despite decades of research that has prioritized interventions for at-risk chronic offenders, it seems our greatest global crime prevention achievement to date was in reducing the prevalence of criminal offending in the general population.
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Online ISBN: 9781108882149
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication: 22 October 2020
© Jason L. Payne and Alex R. Piquero 2020

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