Desistance from Crime: Past to Present

Publication Title

Handbook on Crime and Deviance

Document Type

Book Chapter - Open Access

Department or Program


Publication Date



Desistance, Crime, Criminology, Longitudinal Policy


This chapter surveys the field of desistance from crime. Beginning with an historical overview, we trace criminological work that has studied the relationship between age and crime, bringing us up to the present landscape of desistance research. We then present critical insights from recent longitudinal studies of desistance, highlighting how the desistance process varies for different types of crimes. The chapter then delineates major theories of desistance, presenting internal and external/social approaches. We conclude with a discussion of theoretical and research challenges and policy implications of desistance research.