Patterns and Correlates of Offender Versatility and Specialization Across a 23-Year Span for At-Risk Young Men

Criminological research has long been interested in understanding whether offenders specialize in particular types of crimes (e.g., violent crimes) or are generalists (i.e., commit a broad range of crime types across their lifespan). Several different methodological approaches have been proposed to study this issue. Yet, no consensus exists on the best way to measure specialization in crime. We applied aggregate-level and individual-level methodologies to study offender specialization in at-risk young men, using self-report and official-records measures of their criminal behavior. The predominant pattern for the sample was commitment of a broad range of crime types across a 23-year span. Implications for theory and public policy are discussed.