Turning Points In Desistance

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The concept of ‘turning points’ has been widely studied in the literature of desistance of crime. Turning points refer to particular events or experiences that happened at an earlier point of time, that cause a change or redirection in the long-term trajectory of an individual (Sampson & Laub, 1993; 2005; Teruya & Hser, 2010). Laub & Sampson (2003, p.39) notes that the ‘amount of time spent on the new trajectory’ is key in differentiating ‘turning points’ from temporary deviations in behavior. Turning points have become valuable indicators in understanding desistance from the life course perspective – which theorizes that criminality and desistance of individuals stem from different causal factors at varying stages of their lives (Sampson & Laub, 2005, p.13).
Employment, marriage and parenthood are three turning points that have been discussed heavily in the literature. Studies on turning points have taken reference from Sampson & Laub’s (1993) seminal longitudinal study of the 45 years Gluecks sample which aimed to demonstrate the significance of social bonds in facilitating desistance.
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This paper has discussed the impacts of events and experiences such as employment, marriage and parenthood and their significance in aiding individuals to ‘go straight’. However, treating such turning points as exogenous events that can impact all individuals the same manner would not be accurate. From an empirical perspective, factors such as age, gender, and ethnicity have great influences on how different turning points can affect individuals. Additionally, human agency and cognitive transformations are crucial aspects in an individual’s turning point that can decide the success of the desistance process. Thus, this paper suggests that the aforementioned factors have to be taken into account to evaluate the potential of turning points in galvanizing desistance

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