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Youth offending and youth transitions: the power of capital in influencing change

Barry, Monica (2007) Youth offending and youth transitions: the power of capital in influencing change. Critical Criminology, 15 (2). pp. 185-198. ISSN 1205-8629

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Neither the literature on offending nor that on desistance adequately explains the short-term nature of youth offending, young people's propensity to desist from offending as they reach early adulthood and the importance of youth transitions in helping or hindering young people's access to legitimate and conventional opportunities and responsibilities. It is suggested in this article that the three phases of offending - onset, maintenance and desistance - run parallel courses with the three phases of youth transitions -childhood, youth and adulthood and that both these processes are influenced by discrepancies in levels of capital for young people at each stage. In a recent Scottish study of desistance, Bourdieu's concepts of capital are used to demonstrate the commonalities between youth offending and youth transitions and to better understand young people's search for integration and recognition - whether this be through offending or conventionality. The article concludes that the concepts of capital and youth transitions could both be employed more usefully in the field of criminology to explain the transient nature of offending in youth and the greater likelihood of desistance once legitimate and sustainable opportunities are found to spend as well as to accumulate capital in early adulthood.