Relatively few studies have examined cognitive, physiological, and psychosocial promotive and risk factors that can be linked to desistance from delinquency in community samples. This paper reports on a sample of boys first studied at age 7 and then followed up yearly to age 20. Around age 16, most of the boys received a range of cognitive tests; at that time, information regarding their resting heart rate and skin conductance activity in response to aversive stimuli was also collected. Several psychosocial and two cognitive measures distinguished delinquents from nondelinquents around age 16. Among the promotive factors associated with low delinquency were good housing quality, low community crime (parent and youth report), verbal IQ, delayed verbal memory, and sustained attention. Predictive analyses discriminating between desisters and persisters in delinquency between ages 17 and 20 showed that all of the significant predictors were either child or peer risk factors. None of the cognitive, physiological, parenting, or community factors significantly predicted desistance from delinquency. In addition, no promotive factors were significantly related to desistance. The final set of analyses compared persisters, desisters, and nondelinquents in terms of their adult adjustment. Desisters were similar to persisters in that desisters continued to display serious problems in anxiety, failure to graduate from high school, no post high school education, being a nonstudent and unemployed, daily cigarette use, and weekly marijuana use. Desisters scored low on depression and weekly heavy drinking and in these respects were indistinguishable from nondelinquents and better off than persisters.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Psychiatry and Mental health