Exploring trajectories of offender harm: An alternative approach to understanding offending pathways over the life-course
Dr Molly McCarthy1, Dr James Ogilvie2, Dr Troy Allard3
1The University Of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia
2Griffith Criminology Institute, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia
3School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia
Approaches to defining offender pathways over the life-course have traditionally understood trajectories of offending through the lens of volume. Common classifications such as adolescent-limited, persistent or chronic offending, draw on distinctions related to offending volume over time (Whitten et al., 2018; Allard et al., 2020). However, these offending classifications tell us little about how much harm offenders produce over the life-course. It is also not clear whether these more commonly used offending classifications can help us to distinguish offenders who produce the highest levels of harm from those that produce moderate or minimal levels of harm (Liggins et al, 2019). The current study aims to bring together the currently disparate literatures on the measurement of crime harm and life-course offending, to explore trajectories of harm over the early life course, using linked data for a population cohort born in Queensland in 1983 and 1984 (N=83,371). Crime harm values from the Western Australian Crime Harm Index were applied to major offence types evident among the cohort who had committed at least one offence (N=27,717). Group-based trajectory modelling indicated four distinct harm trajectories in the cohort: adult escalating harm (1.8%); early adulthood peak high harm (2.4%); declining moderate harm (6.3%); and low harm (89.5%). Low level offenders comprised the largest number of offenders in the highest harm groups, while among chronic offending groups the profile of harm was very mixed, with approximately a third of chronic offenders being classified into the highest harm groups. Aligned to recent cross-sectional research on the distribution of harm, this study finds offending-related harm to be more concentrated within individuals than offending volume, with 1.7% of offenders in the cohort being responsible for 50% of the total offending-related harm, while 7.6% of offenders were responsible for 50% of offences. Findings will be discussed with respect to recent findings on patterns of harm among offenders and life-course conceptualisations of offender pathways.
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