The lost concept: The (re)emerging link between maturation and desistance from crime

Publication Title

Criminology and Criminal Justice

Document Type


Department or Program


Publication Date



Crime theory, desistance, historical perspectives, life-course criminology, maturation


Research on desistance or the process of ceasing criminal behavior has increased in recent years. This work has revealed a large number of factors that are related to desistance. To date, these explanations have been generally perceived as mutually exclusive and/or competitive. Interestingly, while research on desistance from crime has been a recent focus, certain work had examined crime over the life-course as far back as the early 20th century. In particular, the Gluecks offered one of the earliest “theories” of desistance, focusing on maturation. Their “maturation theory” was somewhat tautological and not well specified. However, the Gluecks were clear that further work was needed in order to specify what maturation means and how it relates to crime. In this article, five domains of maturation are articulated drawing on the literature in the life-course and developmental fields. It is argued that this new framework may help advance the criminological work on desistance.