chapter  9
Offending and desistance amongst young women
Pages 17

Introduction Desistance from offending is widely acknowledged to be a complex process (Leibrich 1992; Shover 1996). While transitions such as leaving home, getting married, finding work and assuming family responsibilities have been shown to be associated with desistance (Laub et al. 1998; Sampson and Laub 1993), it has also been argued that individual choice and decision-making are integral to the commitment not to re-offend (Maruna 2001). Some have emphasized the interplay of structure and agency in the process of disengagement from offending (e.g., Farrall and Bowling 1999), while others have highlighted the role of both ontogenetic and sociogenic forces in this process (Maruna 2001). However, whether, and if so how, the process of desistance varies by gender remains unclear. While some studies suggest that the processes and “turning points” associated with desistance among female offenders are similar to those associated with male offenders (e.g., Sommers et al. 1994), others have argued that the nature and magnitude of these relationships are different (e.g., Giordano et al. 2002; 2003; McIvor et al. 2004; Uggen and Kruttschnitt 1998). These findings remain tentative, however, because the majority of scholarship on desistance has focused on men. Furthermore, the research on female desistance tends to focus on women with significant involvement in the criminal justice system (e.g., ex-prisoners and parolees). Based on the secondary analysis of in-depth interviews, this chapter will, by contrast, focus on the characteristics and experiences of young women in Scotland who had not necessarily come to the attention of criminal justice authorities. The experiences of women who were still offending and those who had reportedly desisted will be compared and contrasted to identify factors that appear to facilitate the development of a lawabiding lifestyle. In particular, attention will be given to identifying whether experiences and factors that encourage desistance in the first place (primary desistance) differ from those that enable women to sustain a law-abiding lifestyle in the longer term (secondary desistance) (Maruna and Farrell 2004; Maruna et al. 2004).