Uggen, Christopher and Michael Massoglia. 2003. “Desistance from Crime and Deviance as a Turning Point in the Life Course.” Forthcoming in Handbook of the Life Course, edited by Jeylan T. Mortimer and Michael Shanahan. New York: Plenum Publishing.




The transition to adulthood has generally become more individualized in the past fifty years, with fewer young people attaining the classic markers of adult status in an orderly progression (Buchman, 1989; Rindfuss, Swicegood, and Rosenfeld, 1987). The average age of first marriage or age of entry into full-time employment has also increased dramatically in recent decades (Shanahan, 2000). Despite such changes, however, the notion that adults eventually “settle down” and desist from delinquent and deviant behaviors persists across shifting familial and economic arrangements. As they become full-fledged adults, people generally cease or at least moderate many forms of criminal behavior, substance use, and other anti-social activities. In this chapter, we summarize theory and research on desistance from crime and deviance and explore the extent to which such desistance constitutes a separate dimension of the multifaceted transition to adulthood.