chapter  5
Key behavioral aspects of desistance from conduct problems and delinquency
ByRolf Loeber, Magda Stouthamer-Loeber, Lia Ahonen
Pages 14

Robins (1966), in her classical study on conduct disordered boys, observed that close to half of the boys initially registered in child guidance clinics because of conduct problems did not become sociopaths in adulthood. Since the publication of that study, many more studies have been published about continuities and discontinuities in delinquency and antisocial behavior (see below). However, compared to studies on the persistence of delinquent behavior (Robins 1966; West and Farrington 1973; McCord 1978; Wolfgang et al. 1987), studies on desistance from delinquent behavior are in the distinct minority (but see Laub and Sampson 2001; Farrington 2007; Kazemian and Farrington 2010). Even rarer are studies on desistance of conduct problems. Conduct problems are defined as acting out problems typical for childhood and adolescence and include, for example, minor forms of persistent aggression, chronic disobedience, and truancy. Typically, there are no justice ramifications to conduct problems. Delinquency is defined as the breaking of criminal laws, leaving the person open to processing in the (juvenile) justice system. The key reason to include desistance from conduct problems in a review of desistance from delinquency is that most of the eventual serious delinquents had conduct problems when young (Loeber and Dishion 1983), but do not necessarily continue to display all former forms of conduct problems during their delinquency career.