while “desistance” is the causal process that supports the termination of offending. While it is difficult to ascertain when the process of desistance actually begins, it is apparent that it continues after the termination of offending. In their view, the process of desistance maintains the continued state of nonoffending.

More Prosocial Outcomes

In addition to the cessation or reduction of criminal activities, the concept of desistance as a process generally also encompasses positive outcomes in terms of individuals’ behavior and integration into society. “[The] successful establishment of bonds with conventional others and participation in conventional activities are major contingencies on the path that leads to termination of a criminal career” (Shover, 1996, p. 126). More recently, Uggen and Massoglia (2003, p. 317) have argued that “desistance is a process characterized by particular behavioral states or markers” that is marked by the assumption of “adult occupational and family roles” (2003, p. 317). Along similar lines, Maruna (2001, p. 7) has contended that desistance is only possible when ex-offenders “develop a coherent, prosocial identity for themselves.” Thus, desistance is also generally viewed in terms of social integration or reintegration.


Family and work seem to be especially important in the desistance process. The association of marriage with lower crime among men has been widely reported in both quantitative and qualitative studies (Farrington and West, 1995; Horney et al., 1995; Irwin, 1970; Laub and Sampson, 2003, Maume et al., 2005; Sampson and Laub, 1993; Shover, 1996; Warr, 1998; for a general overview, see Laub and Sampson, 2001). Marriage, especially strong marital attachment, has thus been identified as a significant factor in desistance for men.

Recent research has extended this finding to women (King et al., 2007), but the researchers find the effects for marriage are less robust for women than they are for men. The King et al. study is an important one because it uses propensity score matching to estimate the causal effects of marriage. They use a contemporary dataset (The National Youth Survey), and they extend the analysis of marriage and crime to men and women. They find marriage reduces offending for males, especially for those men with a low propensity to marry. They find that marriage reduces offending for females, but only for those with a moderate propensity to marry.

A change in criminal behavior may not necessarily result from marriage alone; rather, a change may occur in response to an enduring attachment

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