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Some cognitive transformations about the dynamics of desistance

NCJ Number
Criminology & Public Policy Volume: 21 Issue: 4 Dated: 2022 Pages: 787-809
Date Published

The author lays out the research study’s background on the effects of social ties on crime; she discusses social learning theory, social aspects of development, emotional changes as part of identity redefinition, limitations of social support as a conceptual framework; and discusses suggestions for future research on desistance processes, and implications for policies and programmatic efforts.


This article explores the role of cognitive transformations in the process of desistance from crime. Based on the author’s own as well as others’ subsequent research, some aspects of the research team’s initial theorizing warrant revisiting and adjustment. The article describes changes to ideas about the sequencing of various types of cognitive shifts, suggests the importance of emotional processes in tandem with changes in perspective, and highlights the need to move out of the comfort zone of crime itself when thinking about redefinitions that support desistance. Yet, a consistent notion remains that social and broader structural factors are deeply implicated, directly and indirectly, in all aspects of the change process. This includes the important area of “derailments” from a pattern of forward progress, where additional processual research is needed. The discussion concludes with the argument that individualistic policies and programs centered on cognitive deficits requiring correction are likely to be limited in their effectiveness. Publisher Abstract Provided

Date Published: January 1, 2022