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Abstract

The majority of studies within the framework of Developmental and Life-Course Criminology focus on adolescence. There are even fewer studies that deal with heterotypic measures of delinquency. This study fills a gap in the literature by targeting exclusively the period of emerging adulthood (ages 18 to 28) and scrutinizing different trajectories and patterns of offending (offending portfolios) thereof. We discuss the topic of continuity of offending with changing opportunity structures for an adult population via contrast of one set of delinquent behaviors reflecting opportunity structures in adolescence (youth set) and one where adult-appropriate criminal activities were added (total set). We applied latent class growth analysis (LCGA) to both sets in a sample of 1810 German men and women aged 18 to 28 years. During emerging adulthood, average crime versatility and incidences increase slightly with items of the total set, while it decreases with only the youth set. LCGA on the total set reveals five meaningful trajectories with declining but also increasing slopes. Among these is one trajectory of innocuous adolescents, who start an offending career with mainly adult crimes during emerging adulthood. Of the sample, 45.25% reported at least one offense during that period. Traffic offenses and fraud are the most prevalent types of offending. While the sample’s majority is considered non-offenders, emerging adults do not entirely cease to commit offenses. Instead, they shift their preference towards age-appropriate and covert ways to act anti-socially. Trajectory groups reflect proclivities towards either youth, adult, or a mix of both types of crime.

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