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2014 Issue Brief: Give Adolescents the Time and Skills to Mature, and Most Offenders Will Stop

Published Dec 8, 2014, Models for Change Resource Center Partnership

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Pathways to Desistance, a major, long-term study of serious juvenile offenders, has shown that:

  • Adolescents, including serious juvenile offenders, naturally mature—psychologically, socially, and cognitively—over time. 
  • The trend among serious adolescent offenders is toward reduced offending; relatively few consistently engage in serious adult crime. 
  • Even among serious offenders, there is a lot of variation in how, when, and at what rate individuals mature. 
  • Some people have wondered whether we can predict future offending based on the severity or frequency of offending during adolescence. The answer is, no. However, patterns of maturing do mirror patterns of future offending.


Effective interventions should focus on helping offenders acquire the psychosocial competencies and skills—such as impulse control and thinking about consequences—that they need to live a law abiding adult life.

The Pathways to Desistance study is a multi-site, longitudinal study of serious adolescent offenders as they transition from adolescence into early adulthood. It is funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in partnership with federal and state agencies and other foundations. For more information, contact Carol Schubert at, or visit the Pathways website, 

Categories: Annual conference

Tags: Annual Conference 2014, pathways to desistance

Uploaded Dec 8, 2014

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Models for Change is supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, website operated by Justice Policy Institute.