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Age-Graded Theory

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Age-Graded Life-Course Theory

The state dependence theory of Sampson and Laub assumes that the causal relationship between early delinquent offending and later adult deviant behavior is not solely a product of individual characteristics; social events may change some individuals while others continue to offend. Their theory contains three main components. First, the micro-level structural context is mediated by informal family and school social controls, which can explain delinquency in childhood and adolescence. Next, there is continuity in antisocial behavior from childhood through adulthood in a variety of life domains. Finally, informal social bonds to family and employment during adulthood explain changes in criminality over the life span despite early childhood propensities (Laub and Sampson 1993: 7). Sampson and Laub's research and subsequent replications of their work substantiate their hypotheses (Sampson and Laub 1993; Paternoster and Brame 1997; Laub et al. 1998; Sommers et al. 1994; Horney et al. 1995).

Most important for the current study, Sampson and Laub find that attachments or social bonds in adulthood increase some individuals' social capital, leading to desistance from most types of deviant behavior, with the exception of men involved in drunkenness and violence. This paper links job and marital attachments in a side-by-side fashion to Bowlby's construct of infant-parent attachment. Men who become attached to coworkers or a spouse will increase their self-control; alternatively, as Gottfredson and Hirschi hypothesize, constraints in the form of job or marital attachments may prevent those with low self-control from offending.

In summary, combining attachment theory with the general theory of crime and life-course theory -- by linking the constructs of parental emotional investment to attachments and social bonds -- may strengthen the predictive power of each perspective. The development of self-control may be explained without attempting to reconcile the competing assumptions of these distinctive theories. Further, Bowlby's prediction that early secure attachment precludes deviant behavior resonates with Sampson and Laub's findings that later attachments to work or to a partner explain desistance. Linking these perspectives through Bowlby's attachment theory may better explain crime and desistance over the life course.

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