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Examining the Divergence Across Self-Report and Official Data Sources on Inferences About the Adolescent Life-Course of Crime

NCJ Number
Journal of Quantitative Criminology Volume: 22 Issue: 2 Dated: June 2006 Pages: 107-129
Date Published
June 2006
23 pages

Using both official and self-report arrest data for a sample of subjects drawn from a longitudinal cohort study, the current research examined the extent to which individual age-arrest curves were comparable for each of these arrest data sources.


The study found that a significant number of youth reported being arrested without there being a corroborating official record of the arrest. There were also a significant number of youth with an official arrest record who did not report (self-report) that they had been arrested. Findings also showed that the age-arrest relationship and the association between demographic characteristics and arrest patterns tended to vary across the two data sources; however, despite significant differences across the two arrest measures on many criminal career dimensions, the effects of family supervision, parent-child conflict, and neighborhood disadvantage were not dependent upon the source of the arrest data. This suggests that either data source can be used to show links between delinquency patterns and certain independent variables that influence a youth's behaviors. The study sample was drawn from the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods, a multiwave study of the factors that influence development and antisocial behavior among Chicago youth. Longitudinal data were collected on seven cohorts defined by age at baseline (ages 0, 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, and 18), with subjects and their primary caregivers interviewed up to three times. Wave 1 was completed between 1994 and 1997; wave 2 between 1997 and 2000; and wave 3 between 2000 and 2002. The interval between interviews was approximately 2.5 years. The current study focused on the age cohorts of 12, 15, and 18. Within 80 neighborhood clusters, there were 2,150 youth in the 3 age cohorts. Overall, 76.2 percent of the participants were interviewed at all three waves. 5 tables, 2 figures, and 45 references

Date Published: June 1, 2006