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1 Issues in the Measurement of Criminal Careers Joseph G. Weis Between 1850 and 1900, each decen- nial census in the United States included a question on mortality that simply asked the respondent to report the number of household members who tract died dur- ing the past year. One would assume that a death in one's family would be of suffi- cient significance and salience that it would be reported accurately. However, a comparison of the census estimates of mortality with the number of deaths offi- cially registered showed an "uncleresti- mation of deaths amounting to over 50 percent" (Shryock, Siegel, and Associ- ates, 1975:3921. The survey estimate of mortality was consiclered so flawed and unreliable that the practice was discon- tinued at the turn of the century." About Joseph G. Weis is director of the Center for Law and Justice and associate professor of sociology, University of Washington. The author is grateful to Jeanne Kleyn, Margie Ramsdell, George Bridges, Elizabeth Loftus, Lynn Frandsen, Kris Jones, and James McCann for their suggestions, assistance, and support in preparing this paper. iImproved record-keeping and survey tech- niques have reduced the rate of underreporting, but 1 70 years later questions that asked whether a respondent hac] been the vic- tim of a variety of crimes were acIded to census surveys. The earliest pilot na- tional victimization survey reported that more than 50 percent of victimizations are not reported to the police, which sug- gests that the official records of crime underestimate the volume of crime (En- nis, 1967~. The juxtaposition of Me two underesti- mations highlights two major issues in the measurement of crime- the adequacy of official records as measures of phenom- ena and We apparent discrepancy in esti- mates of the amount and distribution of crime generated by different measure- ment me~ods. The resolution of these issues in Me measurement of crime has not been as easily accomplished as in the there remain substantial differences between sur- vey and official-record estimates of mortality. For example, a one-time 1962 comparison ofthe number of deaths reported in a quarterly census household survey and the number of officially registered deaths shows survey underreports of approximately 21 percent + 7 (Shryock, Siegel, and Associates, 1975:392).

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2 measurement of mortality. For example, the substantially Tower estimates of mor- taTity produced by using survey tech- niques were iclentifiecI as the source of discrepancy and the survey was aban- donec3 because of confidence in the rela- tively complete sample of deaths con- tained in official mortality records. But the substantially higher estimates of crime generates! by victimization sur- veys, as well as by self-reports of criminal involvement, have not been attributed solely to the survey measures because of the selective sample of crimes and crim- inals represented (i.e., underrepresentec3) in official crime records. In fact, instead of one measure being considered clearly su- perior to another, the different measures of crime have come to be viewed by many as competing approaches, and each has its champions. Some see the potential for complementary measures of crime, each tapping somewhat different but overIap- ping domains of the phenomenon. To date, this battlegrounct of competing . . . ~. ~ CRIMINAL CAREERS AND CAREER CRIMINALS research, but they are complicatect and exacerbated by temporal change and the apparently unique characteristics of seri- ous, chronic offenders. Unfortunately, only one study has addressed the valiclity and reliability of measures in research on criminal careers (among a sample of adult prisoners) and that compared two meth- ods of measuring criminal behavior, of- ficial records and self-reports (Marquis and Ebener, 19811. There is not a rich literature available on alternative ap- proaches to measuring individual offend- ing patterns or on ways to resolve appar- ent discrepancies among measures in estimates of criminal career parameters or their correlates. The purposes of this paper are, first, to describe briefly the alternative ap- proaches to the measurement of criminal careers, particularly self-reports and off?~- cial records; second, to discuss the actual and potential sources of bias and (listor- tion in the measures of parameters and correlates and their effects on the conver- perspechves has been confined almost gence or discrepancy of estimates; and, exclusively to research on juvenile clelin- third, to propose some research strategies quency, which has been characterized by for improving the measurement of crimi- cross-section designs and local samples nal careers to increase the convergent within which serious offenders, minori- validity among the different measures of ties and the economically clisacivanta~ed individual offending patterns and to im- prove their capacity for reciprocal adjust- ment or calibration. Theory construction, policymaking, and program implementa- tion and evaluation can be better in- formecl by convergent than discrepant sources of information on the basic facts are underrepresented. With the recent interest in the extent to which criminal career research can inform crime control policy, the field of controversy has been broadenecI. The basic facts of criminal careers are either unknown or unclear. The parameters of criminal involvement over time prevalence, indiviclual of- fending rates, patterns of criminal behav- ior, and duration of involvement-and the correlates of those parameters have not been specified, due in part to the paucity of rigorous research in the area and the concomitant unresolved mea- surement issues. All the problems regard- ing the validity and reliability of mea- sures of crime apply to criminal career ALTERNATIVE MEASUREMENT APPROACHES Five basic alternative approaches to the measurement of crime produce data that may be useful, directly or indirectly, in measuring individual offending pat- terns: official crime records, self-reports of criminal behavior, reports of personal

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ISSUES IN THE MEASUREMENT OF CRIMINAL CAREERS victimization, direct observations, and in- formant reports. It is clear that the most viable and useful alternatives for n~easur- ing individual offending patterns are offi- cial records and self-reports. One group of criminal career researchers considers bow as necessary, and self-reports, in particular, as "essential" (Greenwood, 1979:43~4) for measuring the frequency of individual criminal involvement ant! the relationship between offenses com- mittec! ant] offenses that result in criminal justice system processing. Victimization, observation, and infor- mant measures of crime are more indirect in their generation of estimates than the two other measures and have limited ap- plications in criminal career research. In general, they tend not to measure the parameters and correlates of criminal be- havior as comprehensively or directly, and they suffer from having somewhat unique or narrow sample characteristics. Victimization surveys are victim based, rather than offender based, ant! conse- quently provide only indirect estimates of parameters and correlates at the aggre- gate level for a small subset of basically personal crimes and an even smaller sub- set of victimizer (or offencler) characteris- tics (Hinclelang, Gottfredson, and Garo- falo, 19781. Perhaps most important, the fact that the results of victimization sur- veys cannot be compared with other data sources at the inclividual-offender level is the most critical weakness of using vic- timization surveys in criminal career re- search. Direct observation studies, on the other hand, particularly if clone within a prospective longitudinal design and car- ried out for a number of years, are better able to measure indiviclual-leve! parame- ters and correlates than victimization sur- veys. But, unfortunately, they typically use small, selective samples of high-risk juvenile subjects whose behavior is not representative of serious crime happen- ing in natural settings or out "on the 3 street." As for informant reports, the most severe limitation is that informants can only report on others whom they know and observe ~lirectly or hear about indi- rectly. The sample, therefore, is very lim- ite~1 and selective. Official-recorc] data are adequate for es- timates of of Acid prevalence and indivic3- ual offending rates, pattems, and dura- tion. In fact, as a measure of crime mix, crime switching, and duration, official records are probably more useful than self-reports, primarily because time mark- ers are incorporates! in the records, which permits relatively accurate estimation of official onset and termination and of the sequence of changes in offenses of rec- ord. However, official data are not as ad- equate as measures of the correlates ant] determinants of parameters, simply be- cause many of the important pieces of information on the social, demographic, economic, and psychological characteris- tics of offenders are not routinely, system- atically, or accurately collected. This, however, is one of the strengths of self- report surveys, which can collect a great variety of rich etiological and descriptive information along with the reports of per- sonal involvement in criminal behavior. Self-reports are also more adequate mea- sures of prevalence and in(liviclual of- fencling rates than official data but are weakest as a basis for studying patterns of involvement and duration, particularly within the typical cross-section study de- sign. Respondents have rlifficulty in re- membering and dating onset, termination is (by definition almost immeasurable, and respondents have even more cliffi- culty recalling the sequences of a variety of offenses. Official records are necessary to those agencies responsible for crime control; they constitute the standard extemal val- idation criterion to which other measures are compared and are the only continu- ous, lifelong recorc! of criminal involve

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4 meet. Self-reports typically cover much shorter time spans than official records, although they provide the potential for long-term measurement of a variety of samples. More importantly, they provide more detailed and richer information on an indiviclual offender's involvement in crime and on other characteristics of de- scriptive and etiological interest. In sum, official and self-report mea- sures best meet the needs of criminal career research. They measure more com- prehensively and systematically the pa- rameters and correlates of individual of- fending patterns over time for serious crimes (e.g., robbery, burglary, assault, drug dealing, auto theft, larceny), can be compared more easily and directly with each other on an individual-off6nder ba- sis, and, therefore, inform crime control policy regarding the serious, chronic of- fender. Taken together, they are at the heart of the controversy over the question of convergence and discrepancy in esti- mates of correlates of crime produced by different measurement approaches. The issue is whether official records and self- reports of criminal behavior generate sim- ilar distributions and correlates of crime. Are the two measures consistent or incon- sistent in their representations ofthe gen- eral characteristics of crime anct crimi- nals? The answers to the questions above are very important for two reasons. First, the implications for theory, policy, and pro- grams will reflect the convergence or dis- crepancy of crime measures~iscrepant correlates suggest different strategies, while convergent correlates support com- plementary strategies and confirm infor- mation on the facts of crime. Second, as the convergence in the estimates of cor- relates approaches unity, one measure can be subshtutec! for the other (Nettler, 1974:8~90~. Of course, this is unlikely, but if there is "apparent" and "sufficient" convergence, the correlates-or charac- teristics of offenders and offenses-could CRIMINAL CAREERS AND CAREER CRIMINALS be taken into account to estimate param- eters of criminal careers, particularly prevalence ant! incliviclual offending rates (Chaiken, Rolph, and Houchens, 1981: 141. That is, the use of one measure to calibrate the other is enhancer! with con vergence. CONVERGENCE OR DISCREPANCY IN ESTIMATES In general, there is surprising consis- tency in the descriptions of the most im- portant correlates of crime based on of- ficial crime records and self-reports of criminal involvement. Indeed, there are fewer discrepancies than one might ex- pect, given the severe criticisms that have been leveled against each method of measurement. In fact, among the major sociodemographic and etiological corre- lates of crime, only one is clearly discrep- ant in its correlation with the two mea- sures race-and one may or may not be discrepant social class. The only other apparently discrepant correlation is for a variable that has not been treated in the- ory or research as a major correlate pulse rate (Farrington, 1983).~ The re- mainder of the major correlates are con ~Farrington (1983:15) reports that convicted youths tend to have low pulse rates, especially if they are violent offenders, but that low pulse rate does not predict high rates of self-reported violent behavior, even though convictions and self-reports of violence are significantly related. A possible ex- planation of this discrepancy could be that con- victed juvenile criminals, particularly those con- victed for serious crimes of violence, are more cool and callous than other respondents, who may not be as hardened by experience with the criminal justice system. They may simply be more likely to deceive and underreport involvement in crimes of violence and, therefore, attenuate the correlation. The situa- tion may be somewhat analogous to the cool, hard- ened criminal "beating" a lie-detector test. And we know from empirical research that those who are most involved in the most serious crimes and who have official records are most likely to give invalid responses and underreport (Hindelang, Hirschi, and Weis, 1981:212-214).

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ISSUES IN TTIE MEASUREMENT OF CRIMINAL CAREERS vergent or very similar in their relation to official ant] self-report measures (Hincle- lang, Hirschi, and Weis, 1981~. Only a limited number of studies allow the kinds of direct comparisons of official ant! self-report data on indivicluals in the same sample that are necessary to address adequately the issue of convergence or discrepancy in the correlates of crime. However, among those studies, the esti- mates procluced by official or self-report measures are largely consistent for sex (see Hindelang, Hirschi, and Weis, 1981: 137-155 for an extensive review), age (Farrington, 1983; Langan and Far- rington, 1983:530-531), school perform- ance ant] achievement, intellectual abil- ity and general competence, delinquency of friends or peers, poor family supervi- sion, and other major correlates that have been identified as etiologically important (West and Farrington, 1977; Hinclelang, Hirschi, and Weis, 1981:199-207; Far- rington, 1982~.3 The two major correlates about which there is some controversy, social class ant! race, provide clues about the differential validity and reliability that may be responsible for the discrepant anct, hence, divergent estimates of crimi- nal career parameters. 3For each of the major correlates for which there is no apparent discrepancy in the correlation be- tween itself and official and self-report measures of crime, there may be inconsistencies in correlations across but, typically, not within subgroups of re- spondents. For example, the relation of school per- formance, whether measured by official grade aver- age, achievement test, or self-report of performance, is consistently inverse with official and self-reported crime (see Glucck and Glucck, 1950; Jensen, 1976; Hindelang, Hirschi, and Weis, 1981:19~202). However, for some respondents, specifically black, male official delinquents, even though there is an inverse relation between self-reports of grades and official and self-reported delinquency, both correla- tions are lower than should be expected. They are not discrepant by method of measurement, but the correlations produced by each are lower than ex- pected because of the apparent diminished validity of self-reports, for both grades and delinquent be- havior, among members of this subgroup. S Social Class Most research on the relation between social class and crime does not assess the issue. Rather, it assumes that there is a strong inverse relation between class and "official" delinquency and then compares self-report estimates with this established "thoroughly clocumentec3" fact (see Gor- clon, 1976~. This relationship was es- tablishec! with ecological correlations, which, as is well known, tend to overes- timate inclivi(lual-level correlations sub- stantially the "ecological fallacy" (Rob- inson, 1950; Hannan, 1971~. In addition, most of the studies relied on one measure of crime, either official ciata or self- reports, which precludes a direct compar- ative assessment of the correlations gen- eratec3 by each method of measurement. The finding of no important relation- ship between incliviclual-level measures of class an(1 self-reportecl crime is also a well-establishec1 and thoroughly (locu- mentecl fact, one that has been replicated by many self-report studies (Short and Nye, 1958; Akers, 1964; Gold, 1970; Hinclelang, Hirschi, and Weis, 1981~. Given the (different facts about social class and crime that are generated by official and self-report measures, there are Togi- cally only two ways to bring them into convergence. The first approach implies that, since there is little doubt about the inverse relationship between official crime and class, self-reports are defective and, if improved technically, would] also show an inverse relationship win class (Elliott and Ageton, 1980), hence conver- gence. The second approach implies that, since there is little doubt about the find- ing of no important relationship between self-reporte<1 crime and class, official measures are suspect but, if the problem was corrected, they would also show no relationship with crime (Hinclelang, Hirschi, and Weis, 1979), hence conver- gence. The relevant empirical question, then, is: what is the inclividual-level rela

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6 tionship between social class and official and self-reportecT crime? Two meta-analyses of the cIass-crime relationship come to opposite conclu- sions regarding the correlation between class and official crime measures. Tittle, Villemez, and Smith (1978) report no im- portant relationship, claiming it to be a myth in criminology. In a later review Braithwaite (1981) concludes that there is some evidence to support an official crime-cIass correlation. Examining those studies that use inclividual-leve! official data only (Havighurst, 1962; Hathaway and Monachesi, 1963; Polk, Frease, and Richmond, 1974) shows that the relation- ship between social class and official cle- linquency is weakly negative to nonexis- tent (Hindelang, Hirschi, and Weis, 1981: 187-188~. A more recent Tongitudi- nal study of a cohort of 7,719 boys in Stockholm (Janson, 1982) also reports no important indiviclual-level relationship between a "famiTy's social position" and a boy's having a police record. Many, many more self-report studies typically also report no significant rela- tionship between self-reported crime and class (e.g., DentIer and Monroe, 1961; Akers, 1964; Hindelang, 1973; Bachman, O'Malley, and Johnston, 19781. However, there is a major exception to the apparent consensus of self-report studies, ancT that is the recent work of Elliott and Ageton (1980) ant! Elliott and Huizinga (1983~. Baser] on analyses of the National Youth Survey4 probability sample of approxi 4In 1967 the National Institute of Mental Health sponsored the first of a relatively regular series of national youth surveys of a representative sample of juveniles for the purpose of estimating the extent and nature of delinquency and substance abuse in the United States. The survey was repeated in 1972, and in 1976 the National Institute for Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention became a co- sponsor of an annual survey of the self-reported and official delinquency of a national probability panel of youths aged 11-17 in 1976. CRIMINAL CAREERS AND CAREER CRIMINALS mately 1,500 youths, they report that there is a moderate inverse relationship between class and serious "person crimes" and serious "property crimes," particularly for person crimes among black youths of Tow socioeconomic status (Elliott and Ageton, 19801. Later analyses of the national youth panel for 197~1980 show small-to-moclerate class differences in prevalence and incidence for serious crimes, and the relationship is stronger for incidence than prevalence scales (El- liott and Huizinga, 19831. Official data have also been collectecl on the national youth sample, but they have not yet been reported in the literature in a direct as- sessment of discrepancy or convergence. Of the five major studies reviewed by Hinclelang, Hirschi, and Weis (1981: 18~193) that have both official and self- report measures on an inclividual level for the same sample, all showed convergent estimates of the correlation between so- cial class and official self-reported crime (Reiss and Rhodes, 1961; Hirschi, 1969; Williams and Gold, 1972; Wolfgang, Figlio, and Sellin, 1972; Elliott and Voss, 1974~. Only one of the studies showed convergent estimates of a small inverse relationship (Reiss and Rhodes, 1961~. Another stucly, based on the Cambridge (Englancl) Study in Delinquent Develop- ment, found an inverse relationship be- tween social class at age 14 and having an official conviction record at age 17-20, but no relation to self-reportecl crime at age 18 (Farrington, 1979; 1982: 17~.5 This discrepancy is only one among a much broacler pattern of finding no important differences between estimates of a vari 5European, primarily British, studies ofthe class- crime relationship tend to find an inverse relation- ship no matter what the measure, in good part because of the more differentiated, structured, and rigid class structure that exists in Britain, so that this finding of "discrepancy'' is somewhat unusual within the British context (see Belson, 1968; McDonald, 1969; Bytheway and May, 1971).

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ISSUES IN THE MEASUREMENT OF CRIMINAL CAREERS ety of correlates baser] on self-reports and official records. This apparent cliscrep- ancy may be interpretable in light of an important reanalysis of the follow-up in- terview ciata from the Philadelphia cohort study (Wolfgang, Figlio, and Sellin, 19721. Thornberry ant! Farnworth (1982) found no important relationship between status, as measured primarily by ecluca- tional attainment, and criminal involve- ment, whether measured by self-report interviews or police arrest data, when the cohort members were juveniles. How- ever, there was a significant inverse rela- tionship between status and both official and self-reportecI crime when the cohort members were adults. That is, conver- gent estimates of the status-crime rela- tionship are produced for juveniles and adults, even though they are in different directions. The findings for adults are particularly important for criminal career research, because among serious, chronic offenders the relationships between pa- rameters and correlates are apparently different during different stages in career clevelopment. In other words, the opera- tion of social class is not the same at age 12 as it is at age 25. Another major study shows that there is a very weak to nonexistent relationship between social class ant! official and self- reported juvenile crime. More impor- tantly, the study attempts to identify and test the substantive and methodological sources of discrepancy, not only for social class, but for a number of other variables that have some empirical and theoretical importance (Hindelang, Hirschi, and Weis, 1975, 1978, 1979, 1981; Weis, 1983b). Hindelang, Hirschi, and Weis (1975, 1979) propose that the apparent discrepancy between self-report and offi- cial measures for social class, as well as for gender and race, becomes "illusory" when standard but critical methodologi- cal considerations are taken into account, particularly comparisons of results by 7 level of measurement and by the domain (variety), type, and seriousness of crimi- nal behavior. They content! that, if the data are properly analyzed by comparing inclividual-level measures of both official and self-reportect crime with indiviclual 1 ~ r 1 level measures or class, ant! the types and r . . 1 .1 .~ seriousness of crimes in both are the same, the alleged (liscrepancy for social class is resolved.6 Simply put, one should not compare apples with oranges. Elliott ancI Ageton (1980) have recommended basically the same methodological adjust- ments; in acIdition they suggest that the proper analysis of self-report data should include more attention to scoring and scaling of items. Specifically, they sug- gest that the reported frequency of illegal acts should not be restricted in the scor- ing of incliviclual incidence of involve- ment (which is preferred to prevalence) and that the unique properties anct con- tributions of indiviclual crimes that may be related to social class (or other vari- ables) should not be lost in global scales of (lelinquency. Hinclelang, Hirschi, and Weis (1981: 181-198) cTiscovere(1 in a comprehensive empirical test of these hypotheses that there is a weak, insignificant, or nonexis- tent relationship with socioeconomic sta- tus when one controls for level of mea- surement and compares in(lividual-level data on both variables. It seems that no matter how one measures, scales, or scores the clata, there are small, typically negative relations between social class and juvenile (delinquency. The correla- tions (~) range from -.01 to -.08 between occupation of principal wage earner and the self-report delinquency scales (prev- alence scales for total, serious, general, 6The same logic, of course, can be applied to other correlates and has been by Hindelang, Hirschi, and Weis (1981~; only race proved not to be amenable to these methodological discrepancy-res- olution strategies and procedures.

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8 drug, famiTy-schoo! offense inclexes) and the total official offenses index (Hincle- lang, Hirschi, anct Weis, 1981:1961. These finclings also hold when the additional suggestions of Elliott and Ageton (1980) are incorporated in the analysis: that is, one still finds consistently weak-to-non- existent relations that at times are in the wrong direction when one (1) uses their self-report scales scored for incidence or the total unrestricted frequency within the past year; (2) examines each of the three official delinquency inclexes (police contacts ever, police contacts nest vear. juvenile court referral ever); (3) does an item-by-item analysis of their 69 self- report items; and (4) examines each of their (1,2,3) relationships separately with a variety of indicators of socioeconomic status, including father's education, fa- ther's occupation, mother's education, mother's occupation, father employed, mother employed, father's socioeconomic index, and mother's socioeconomic index (Weis, 1981, 19861. These results are perplexing because some rigorous studies report a moderate inverse relation between social class and self-reportec3 crime (e.g., Elliott and Ageton, 1980; Elliott and Huizinga, 1983), while other rigorous studies show an absent-to-weak inverse relation for both self-report and official measures (e.g., Hindelang, Hirschi, anc1Weis, 1981; Thornberry and Farnworth, 19821. Given that there are no published or otherwise available results on a convergent inverse relationship, except for Reiss and Rhodes (1961), the conclusion for now is that there is much more evidence, across a variety of some ofthe most important data sets compiled on juvenile crime (e.g., National Youth Survey: GoIc3, 1970, and Williams and GoIc3, 1972; Richmond youth project: Hirschi, 1969; Philadel- phia birth cohort study: Thornberry and Famworth, 1982; Seattle youth stiffly: Hindelang, Hirschi, and Weis, 1981) that convergence is more likely to show that CRIMINAL CAREERS AND CAREER CRIMINALS there is a weak negative-to-nonexistent relation between social class ant! both official and self-report measures of crime. However, what is disturbing is that the agrees] stanciarcI methoclological adjust- ments that shouIcT be applier! to these data comparisons (same level of measure- ment, same domain of criminal acts, more sensitive scoring and scaling proceclures) do not go far enough in creating some kind of apparent consensus on the issue of convergent vaTiclity. Race Race is the only major correlate (Wolfgang and Ferracuti, 1967; Wolfgang, Figlio, and Sellin, 1972; Curtis, 1974; Hinclelang, 1978; Blumstein, 1982) for which the metho(lological adjustments proposer! by Hindelang, Hirschi, and Weis (1979), particularly the controls for type ant! seriousness of offense (espe- cially violence), JO not make the official and self-report relations consistent in the way they JO for sex, social class, and other important correlates of crime. Official data historically have implied that blacks are "more criminal" than whites simnIv by virtue of their overrepresentation in the criminal justice system and official records. Self-reports, on the other hand, suggest that there is less difference in both prevalence and incidence of crime (e.g., GoIcT, 1970; Chaiken and Chaiken, 19821. The discrepancy is so large that "the range of ratios in self-report samples restricted to a single sex ... does not overlap with the range of ratios fount! in official data.... The very strong relation between race and delinquency in official data is not present in self-report clata. In fact, the self-report relation wouIcl have to be characterized as weak or very weak, with a mean black-to-white ratio of less than 1.1:1 expected on the basis of previ- ous research" (Hindelang, Hirschi, and Weis, 1981:159; emphasis in original). Contrary to expectations that compar - 1- ~

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ISSUES IN THE MEASUREMENT OF CRIMINAL CAREERS ing the more serious and violent crimes would show race differences of a magni- tude similar to those represented! in of- ficial records, the race differences for both self-report serious-clelinquency scales and individual items are not very large or significant. Hindelang, Hirschi, and Weis (1981) report white-to-black ratios that approximate 1 for the total prevalence scale; paracloxically, for the frequency or incidence scales the ratios are less than 1 on five of their six scales, which implies more white than black involvement in crime. These ratios approach unity as one moves from the less to more serious of- fenses but do not, as the official-data ra- tios would suggest, exceed 1. The overall 2:1 black-to-white ratio in the Seattle study's offlcial-record data is approxi- matec] by prevalence ratios for self- reports of some types of face-to-face vio- lence, for example, carrying a weapon, hitting a teacher, using a club, gun, or other weapon to get something, beating someone seriously enough to send them to the hospital, robbery, and jumping and beating someone, as well as for official reaction, probation, and school suspen- sion (Hinclelang, Hirschi, and Weis, 1981:16~1691. One might interpret this to mean that there may be violent-offense specialization by race, but the frequency estimates do not support this, for either scales or individual items; it seems that either the criminal justice system clis- criminates substantially against blacks, particularly males, or that blacks may be underreporting the extent of their in- volvement in crime. Other research on juveniles and, more surprisingly, on adult prisoners supports these finclings regarding apparent uncler- reporting by blacks, particularly mates with official criminal records. Shannon (1982, 1983) reports that in the Racine, Wisconsin, cohort study of the relation- ship between juvenile and aclult criminal careers, self-reports of delinquency hac! little relationship to race, but there was a 9 disproportionate representation of blacks with official records of police contact. Black males hacI the most contacts and most extensive, serious involvement with the police 75 percent of the black males had a police contact while a juvenile, compared with 50 percent of the white males. It appears that juvenile black mates may be underreporting their crim- inal involvement because "while 80 per- cent of the whites in each cohort either reported their number of police contacts consistently with police records or over- estimatec3 them, only half the blacks re- ported the number of contacts consis- tently with the records and the other half reported fewer contacts in comparison with official recorcls" (Shannon, 1982:1, 101. Other studies on juvenile crime also suggest underreporting and potential va- li(lity problems among black respon- lents, particularly mates with official rec- or(ls (Chambliss and Nagasawa, 1969; GouIcl, 1969; Hirschi, 1969~.7 Intriguing corroborative finclings are also reported on mate adult prisoners, including serious, chronic offenders, in the first (Peterson, Braiker, and Polich, 1981) and second (Marquis and Ebener, 1981; Chaiken and Chaiken, 1982) Rand surveys of incarcerated felons. Peterson, Braiker, and Polich (1981:xxii-xxiii, 6(k 65) report that the results of an anony- mous survey of Califomia prisoners gen- eratecl "complex" results on race. The self-reports showed that black inmates were "less active and dangerous crimi- nals" than white inmates they were in- volvec3 in the smallest variety of crimes and at the lowest reported rates compared with whites and Chicanos. They also re- ported less involvement in crimes of vio- lence. Even when corrections are made fin a personal communication, Delbert Elliott indicates that similar underreporting and potential validity problems among this subgroup were also appearing in ongoing analyses ofthe National Youth Survey data.

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10 for different apparent probabilities of ar- rest and estimated offense rates by race (the mocle] of street offenders developed by Chaiken), differences remain, with the exception that blacks are shown to be more involves! in crime than Chicanos. The interpretation ofthese differences by race in self-reports and official records, particularly the apparent underreporting by black prisoners, is considered "some- what ambiguous" ant! two possibilities are offered either blacks do, incleecI, commit fewer crimes and less frequently or the criminal justice system is more likely to imprison blacks, particularly Tow-rate, occasional criminals. A third source of the differences is only alluded to in a footnote-the clifferential reliabil- ity and validity of self-report responses by race. Unfortunately, the first Ranc3 inmate survey was anonymous, so the self- reports and official records could not be validated reciprocally at the incliviclual level (Peterson, Braiker, and Polich, 1981:2~26, 901. However, Chaiken and Chaiken (1982:226, 244, 245, 247) and Chaiken, Chaiken, and Peterson preaches to measuring;indiviclual offencT- (1982:17) suggest that there may have been underreporting among some sub- groups of prisoners in the second Rand inmate survey, particularly among blacks and the less educated.8 For example, there is the "puzzling finding" that blacks report much lower rates of assault than whites; but it is also reported that the responses of blacks are less reliable, i.e., have "substantially worse internal qual- ity," and that "respondents whose survey responses have poor internal quality tend estimates of parameters and correlates anal, ultimately' the convergence of the CRIMINAL CAREERS AND CAREER CRIMINALS to report Tow crime commission rates for the crimes they report committing." There seems to be consistency in both inmate surveys regarding the under- reporting of some subgroups, particularly black inmates, reacting to lower-than- expected individual offending rates when self-reports are compared with official records. In short, a number of studies of juve- nile and aclult offenders report a discrep- ancy between race and self-reportect and official crime data, and the discrepancy is likely explainecl by underreporting on the self-report instrument rather than by race discrimination within the criminal justice system. Therefore, attention neecls to be turned to the connection between self-reports and official records and possi- ble racial and other differences in the link between the two. In this regard the next section addresses two questions: What is the nature ofthe reliability and validity of the two measures? How c30 they affect 8It is interpreted here as a "suggestion" because the data on individual offending rates by race could not be found in Chaiken and Chaiken (1982~. Rela- tions between race and other variables, including "intemal quality" and "external reliability" of mea- sures, are reported extensively, but the distribution of self-reported individual offending by offense and race could not be found. , , v estimates generated by the two ap ing patterns? EFFECTS OF RELIABILITY AND VALIDITY ON ESTIMATES Given the apparent underreporting of criminal involvement in self-report sur- veys that was iclentifie(1 in a number of studies ant] its possible contribution to iscrepant correlations, the focus here is on the effects of the differential reliability and validity of measurement approaches on estimates. Of particular interest are "response effects" (Suciman an(1 Brad- burn, 1974) in self-report surveys as pos- sible sources of bias.9 A brief discussion 9Given the focus of most of the research in this area and space limitations, other sources of error and bias, such as processing, sampling, and design, are

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ISSUES IN THE MEASUREMENT OF CRIMINAL CAREERS of the current state of the reliability and validity of self-reports of crime precedes a more detailed treatment of some of the more important sources of apparent and potential distortion and response bias in self-report measures. Reliability of Self-Reports of Crime Although Reiss (1975) is correct that few self-report researchers have assessed the reliability of instruments, the evi- dence shows that the self-report method is very reliable, ant] that if there is a problem with this type of measure it is more likely in the area of validity (Hinde- lang, Hirschi, and Weis, 1981:841. In terms of intemal consistency, both self- reports of juvenile crime (Hinclelang, Hirschi, and Weis, 1981:81) and of crime among adult prisoners (Marquis anct Ebener, 1981; Chaiken and Chaiken, 1982) show "impressive reliability," al- though there is some evidence of system- atic variation in intemal consistency by respondent subgroups among aclult pris- oners. For example, inmates convicted of drug dealing "left significantly more questions blank," and inmates who saw themselves as a "thief, player, or aTcohol- ic/cirunk" clid significantly worse on the intemal consistency of responses. In ac3- clition, even though there clicI not seem to be much difference in extemal reliability (validity) among whites, blacks, or His- panics (although it was still lower, on the average, than intemal consistency), the "summary measure ('percent of bad inter- nal quality indicators') was worse than average for black repondents" (Chaiken and Chaiken, 1982:226, 244~. Test-retest reliability of self-report data not addressed directly but only as they relate to response effects. The limitations of official-record measures are discussed later; besides, the issue for official measures is not so much a matter of reliabil- ity and validity as it is of utility. 11 is also quite good, both for reports of criminal behavior anct for independent variables. A small number of studies on juvenile clelinquency have reported high test-retest reliability coefficients; the time between administration of the self-report instrument ranged from a couple of hours (Hinclelang, Hirschi, and Weis, 1981: 81-82) to a number of years (Farrington, 1973; Bachman, O'Malley, and Johnston, 19781. These and other studies (DentTer and Monroe, 1961; Clark and Tifft, 1966; Belson, 1968; Kulik, Stein, and Sarbin, 1968) show that there is substantial con- sistency in self-reports of the same crim- inal acts, but reliability diminishes with time. In general, the test-retest reliability coefficients are higher for criminal behav- ior items than for other items (Elliott and Voss, 1974; Bachman, O'Malley, and Johnston, 19781. For example, with a few hours between tests, the coefficients on four independent items (mother's educa- tion, grade-point average, parental super- vision, and peer delinquency) ranged from 0.4 to 0.9, but the delinquency items varied around 0.9 (Hinclelang, Hirschi, and Weis, 1981:821. The reliability of alternate forms, using split-half coefficients, is also impressive. Elmhorn (1965) reports a coefficient of.86 for 21 delinquency items, and Kulik, Stein, and Sarbin (1968) report coeffi- cients ranging from .70 to .92 for five subscaTes clerivec3 from cluster analysis of 52 delinquency items. Overall, self-reports are very consistent in the measurement of crime, in terms of internal consistency, test-retest stability, and split-half reliability. There is some eviclence, however, that there may be potentially important variation in reliabil- ity, particularly internal consistency, by respondent characteristics, with appar- ently more reliability problems among both black juveniles and adult offenders, the less educated, and those with drug and alcohol abuse in their records. These

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ISSUES IN THE MEASUREMENT OF CRIMINaL CAREERS study (Hindelang, Hirschi, and Weis, 1981) and an extencled replication study that focuses on very similar issues in measuring violence among a stratified random sample of criminals, mental pa- tients, and the general population (Weis and Bridges, 1983) are available models for the suggested research. In fact, the latter sample undoubtedly includes a number of serious, chronic offenders in the institutionalized juvenile- and adult- offender subsamples. What is proposed is that a sufficiently large sample of juvenile and aclult seri- ous, chronic offenders be drawn for studying within an experimental design the comparative measurement properties of two self-report methods (the face-to- face interview and the nonanonymous questionnaire) and offlcial-record clata. Randomization would be built into the design, each respondent would partici- pate individually (compared with the group administration in the Ranct inmate surveys, for example; Chaiken and Chaiken, 1982), and all the suggestions listed above to reduce response effects wouIct be appropriately taken into ac- count. The face-to-face interview would be the focus of the research, for a number of reasons. First, the information cannot be anonymous for research purposes, and besides anonymity does not seem to af- fect responses to questions about criminal behavior (Hindelang, Hirschi, ant] Weis, 19811. Second, there are more nonre- sponses and missing data on question- naires than in interviews (Chaiken and Chaiken, 1982; Suciman and Bradburn, 19821. Third, available research evidence suggests that the face-to-face interview may be the most effective method of acI- ministratior~ for these types of respon- dents (Bra(lburn and Suciman, 1979; Marquis anct Ebener, 1981:viii). For ex- ample, Hindelang, Hirschi, and Weis (1981) discovered that among those re 41 spondents with the highest rate of under- reporting- black, male official delin- quents-reporting was most accurate during the face-to-face interview. Fourth, an interview setting, with a competent, experienced interviewer, provides a greater clegree of control and flexibility in eliciting information from the respon- dent. For example, to cue recall, test va- liclity of answers, match self-reported crimes to offenses of record, and establish the perception of a "knowing" inter- viewer, it is recommended that the of- ficial record be used (physically, if appro- priate) as an integral part ofthe interview. It can set up "guilty knowledge" ques- tions, i.e., the interviewer refers to of- fenses of record, for example, three bur- glaries, and asks about pertinent vaTi- dating information: Of the three burglar- ies you were arrested for, how many were of houses or apartments? These kincis of detailed data are extremely difficult to obtain in other ways. This approach can also be user! in comparisons of recogni- tion and cuecI-recall memory of offenses of record. A "creep probe" would also be part of the interview for four purposes: (1) to collect cletailecl information on offenses to ascertain face validity and general accu- racy of answers; (2) to gather data about other important aspects of the criminal event (e.g., intent, motive, number of crime partners, relationship to victim) that could be comparer! with official dep- osition statements for crimes that become offenses of record; this would allow a crude assessment of the disparity be- tween a respondent's memory for details of criminal events and the official version; (3) probing might also be necessary for these kinds of respondents simply to get a relatively normal response pattern (Erick- son and Empey, 19631; and (4) as sug- gestec! by Hindelang, Hirschi, and Weis (1981), to adjust scores on delinquency items based on corrections made in initial

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42 reports as a consequence of probing. The nonanonymous questionnaire ant] a fol- low-up ranclomized response questioning or a real or simulated "lie detector" inter- view woulc] be included in the design to test these approaches on this type of sam- ple and provide potential alternatives for comparisons; it is less expensive to give respondents a checklist, but the data may not be as complete or useful. Due to the nature of the sample, this kind of experimental design couIc3 also facilitate a more rigorous assessment of the effects of the apparently important respondent characteristics on responses since serious, chronic offenders personify those characteristics. In general, this type of experimental study is the preferred way to determine the best way to collect valid and reliable data from serious, chronic offenders and to validate recipro- cally data from official records. Other- wise, we are simply guessing, on the basis of scarce, ancillary evidence, about the most effective method of measure- ment. This is certainly not a firm founda- tion on which to build theory, make pol- icy, or c resign programs. 5. Research on the measurement of criminal careers should treat the im- provement of measurement as a research and development enterprise. For a variety of reasons, the preferred research clesign in criminal career re- search is the prospective, longitudinal study. Its primary purposes are to observe changes in behavior and correlates in a cohort. However, there is another pur- pose that should be considered, and that is incorporating into the study design a research and development component on measurement methods. This could be done within an existing longitudinal study or built into one in the future. There are a number of reasons for pro- posing that instrument OCR for page 1
ISSUES IN THE MEASUREMENT OF CRIMINaL CAREERS 43 lates. And, like the measures, improving record check in which the response inter the accuracy and quality of the data vat (the time elapsed between the offense shouIct be a "given" as a research objec- of record and the response to questions five and constantly monitored. For exam- about it) is sufficiently Tong that memory pie, what is the differential validity over may be faulty or at least not as accurate as time of responses based on recognition it could be. versus recall memory and how floes it In sum, treating the improvement of effect estimates of criminalcareerparam- measuring criminal behavior as a re eters? Or, does the magnitude of re- search and development task, incorpo sponse bias by race vary over time, and rated in a prospective longitudinal study of the development of criminal careers, wouIc3 improve substantially the validity and reliability of measures and, ulti mately, the ability to describe criminal career parameters and correlates. with what implications for measurement? If the improvement of measures is treated as a research and clevelopment task, it also means that one can "tinker" or try to test different techniques as the project unfolds. For example, respon- clents could be trainee! to fill out ledger- type diaries of their activities and, given the design, monitored in the process. One couIcT also use different types of response categories, recall periods, question spec- ificity, ant! question length in the survey instrument, all with the objective of im- proving response accuracy over time. Given a cohort sample, the potential ef- fects of"small changes," such as those in question worcling, couIcl be clirectly and accurately assessed. And recall periods could be "bounded" from wave to wave of data collection, making the analysis of temporal changes both easier and more accurate. The time between waves could be varied, covering shorter and longer recall periods, perhaps rotating two or more subsamples to control for testing effects. Finally, one would have Me unique opportunity to observe the development of official records as well. If the research component is designee! so that data are collected at relatively frequent intervals from both respondents and records, the capacity to assess reciprocal validity and subjects such as clifferential arrest proba- bilities is enhanced substantially. A rela- tively contemporaneous record check is bound to be more accurate and useful for "triangulation" of results than a reverse 6. Research on the measurement of criminal careers should assess the isomorphism of domains of seZf-reported crimes and official offenses. There is insufficient and inadequate information in official records regarding the characteristics of offenders, as well as the behavioral referents of the legal cate- gories of offense. Offenses of record are the organizational products of a process that transforms initial criminal behavioral events that were detected into sanctioned ancl, therefore, recorcled official offenses (Black, 19701. The problem for research on the measurement of criminal careers is the disparity between the criminal be- havior and the official offense. To the extent that there is not a "good fit" behav- iorally or conceptually between the two, the implications reverberate throughout research on valiclity and reliability of both self report and official measures. The disparity between what an of- fencler actually did and what is repre- sented in the record can affect all compar- ative validity tests, including reverse record checks and, ultimately, the conver- gence or discrepancy of estimates of pa- rameters and correlates. This is not a trivial or esoteric problem, but a very practical problem in comparing the two methods of measurement. If the units of

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44 comparison are not the same, compari- sons are obviated. We have seen these difficulties in the reverse-record-check comparisons ofthe Seattle youth study, in which self-reported behaviors were grouped within offense categories to en- able comparisons, rather than on the basis of official offenses (lIindelang, Hirschi, and Weis, 1981~. To the extent that there is meaningful disparity, extrapolating from offenses known to total crime, either within a ju- risdiction or, more unreliably, across ju- risdictions, may be more difficult to do with optimal precision. Even the appar- ently simple identification of a self-report item that fits an offense category may not be that easy (Hindelang, Hirschi, and Weis, 1981:171-1801. In short, the dispar- ity between criminal behavior and legal classification is a critical measurement problem. To determine the degree of isomorph- ism between self-report and official do- mains, one should investigate the struc- ture ant] content of official records (Marquis and Ebener, 1981:viii). More research is needed on the characteristics of official-record data: What is the domain of criminal behaviors that official records represent? To what extent do the do- mains of official and self-report data over- lap? Is the apparent multidimensionaTity of criminal behavior in self-report data replicated in official-record data? An- swers to some of these questions can be gained through the usual dimensional- izing procedures, for example, factor and cluster analysis of official data. Others require more time-consuming and dif- ficult data collection and analysis. To get closer to the domain of criminal behaviors circumscribed by official records, one needs to delve deeper than the legal cat- egories recorded in the active records of the police department or court. One should go to the offender's case file for the much more detailed information given in depositions by the victim, witnesses, po CRIMINAL CAREERS AND CAREER CRIMINALS lice, and offender. This should enhance the agreement of the two data sources, provide more accurate information from which to select self-report items, increase correlational validity coefficients, make reverse record checks more precise, and so on. In short, more research on the measurement properties of official-record data is needed, particularly on the degree to which the conceptual and behavioral domains of self-report and official mea- sures are isomorphic. To the extent that they are not, the complementarily of the two measures is compromised. CONCLUSION Theory, policy, and programs on crim- inal careers depend on accurate informa- tion about the characteristics, distribu- tion, and correlates of criminal behavior over time. Fortunately, the two most via- ble approaches to measuring the parame- ters and correlates of criminal careers, self-reports and official records, generally describe the same essential features of crime and criminals. There is much more convergence than discrepancy in their representations of the phenomena. How- ever, research on measurement proper- ties, particularly validity and reliability, shows that both approaches to measuring crime are still plagued by a variety of problems and weaknesses. The improve- ment of self-report and official measures should be a fixed objective and an ongo- ing enterprise. The goal should be to maximize the precision and utility of measures of the parameters and corre- lates of individual offending patterns over time, particularly for serious and violent crimes. In so doing, the refined measure- ment approaches may generate more sim- ilar estimates of parameters but, more likely and more usefully, should produce even more convergent estimates of the correlates of offenses and offenders. With this knowledge about systematic varia- tion, adjustments and fine-tuning are

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ISSUES IN THE MEASUREMENT OF CRIMINAL CAREERS more within the realm of possibility, if not on the basis of current knowledge at least on the basis of future research. A number of research strategies have been described that could improve research on the measurement of criminal careers and, therefore, our ability to understand and address the problem of serious, chronic criminal behavior. REFERENCES Akers, Ronald L. 1964 Socio-economic status and delinquent be- havior. A retest. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 1:38-46. Bachman, Jerald G., O'Malley, Patrick, and Johnston, Jerome 1978 Youth in Transition, Vol. Vl: Adolescence to Adulthood: Change and Stability in the lives of Young Men. Institute for Social Re- search. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan. Ball, John C. 1967 The reliability and validity of interview data obtained from 59 narcotics addicts. Ameri- canJournal of Sociology 72:65~654. Belson, William 1968 Development of a Procedure for Eliciting Information from Boys about the Nature and Extent of Their Stealing. Survey Re- search Centre. London: London School of Economics. Birnbuam, Isabel M., and Parker, Elizabeth S. 1977 Acute effects of alcohol on storage and re- trieval. Pp. 99-108 in Isabel M. Birnbuam and Elizabeth S. Parker, eds., Alcohol and Human Memory. New York: Ichn Wiley & Sons. Black, Donald J. 1970 Production of crime rates. American Socio- logical Review 35:73~748. Blackmore, Jane 1974 The relationship between self-reported de- linquency and official convictions amongst adolescent boys. British Journal of Cr~mi- nology 14:172~176. Blumstein, Alfred 1982 On the racial disproportionality of United States' prison populations. Journal of Crim- inal Law and Criminology 73:1259-1273. Bower, Gordon H. 1970 Organizational factors in memory. Cognitive Psychology 1:18-46. Bradburn, Norman M., and Danis, Catalina 1984 Potential contributions of cognitive research to survey questionnaire design. Pp. 101-129 45 in Thomas B. Jabine, Miron L. Straf, Judith M. Tanur, and Roger Tourangeau, eds., Cog- nitive Aspects of Survey Methodology. Re- port of the Advanced Research Seminar on Cognitive Aspects of Survey Methodology, Committee on National Statistics, National Research Council. Washington, D.C.: Na- tional Academy Press. Bradburn, Norman M., and Sudman, Seymour 1979 Improving Interview Method and Question- naire Design. San Francisco, Calif.: Jossey- Bass. Braithwaite, John 1981 The myth of social class and criminality re- considered. American Sociological Review 46:36-57. Brenner, Michael 1982 Response effects of"rc~le-restricted" charac- teristics of the interviewer. Pp. 131-165 in Wil Dijkstra and Johannes van der Zouwen, eds., Response Behavior in the Survey-later- view. New York: Academic Press. Bridges, George 1981 Estimating the effects of response errors in self-reports of crime. Pp. 59-76 in James A. Fox, ea., Methods in Quantitative Criminol- ogy. New York: Academic Press. 1983 An empirical study of error in reports of crime and delinquency. In Marvin E. Wolfgang, Robert M. Figlio, and Terence P. Thornberry, From Boy to Man,from Delin- quency to Crime. Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press. Bridges, George, Weis, Joseph G., and Crutchfield, Robert 1984 The Measurement of Violent Behavior: Fac- tors Affecting Estimates of the Prevalence and Correlates of Violent Behavior. Paper presented at the American Sociological As- sociation Meeting, San Antonio, Texas, Au- gust. Bytheway, W. R., and May, D. R. 1971 On fitting the "facts" of social class and criminal behavior: a rejoinder to Box and Ford. Sociological Review 19:585-607. Campbell, Donald T., and Fiske, Donald W. 1959 Convergent and discriminant validation by the multitrait-multimethod matrix. Psycho- logical Bulletin 56:81-105. Cannell, Charles F., and Fowler, Floyd J. 1963 Comparison of a self-enumerative procedure and a personal interview: a validity study. Public Opinion Quarterly 27:25(}264. Cannell, Charles F., and Kahn, Robert L. 1968 Interviewing. Pp. 449-487 in Gardner Lind- zey and Elliott Aronson, eds., The Handbook of Social Psychology. Vol. I. Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley.

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