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Age and Crime

Peggy S. Plass


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Of all the social characteristics associated with crime, age is perhaps the most powerful. Age has been found to be a strong predictor of involvement in crime for both victims and offenders. Crime is a phenomenon of the young – risk for involvement drops precipitously with age. While the patterns for both victimization and offending are the same, the explanation for age's effect on each is distinct. In the United States, arrest rates generally peak for all crime in the early 20s. Generally, a bit more than half of offenders arrested in any given year are under the age of 30, and nearly 80 percent are under the age of 40. The elderly commit very few crimes (usually less than 1 percent of arrestees are age 65 or older). While juveniles (people under the age of 18) do not comprise a majority of those arrested for crimes in the United States, they do account for a disproportionately high level of arrests. Not surprisingly, then, juveniles have received a great deal of attention from social scientists and policymakers. In fact, a majority of theories which were developed in the twentieth century to explain criminal offending focused on the bad behaviors of youth (a focus probably fueled as much by concern for these young offenders as it was by the volume of offenses that occurred in this group). Among the best known of these explanations of criminal behavior in the young are Albert ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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