Age and its relation to crime in taiwan and the united states: Invariant, or does cultural context matter?

Darrell Steffensmeier, Hua Zhong, Yunmei Lu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

10 Scopus citations

Abstract

Current empirical and theoretical understanding of the relation between age and crime is based almost entirely on data from the United States and a few prototypical Western societies for which age-specific crime information across offense types is available. By using Western databases, Hirschi and Gottfredson (1983) projected that the age distribution of crime is always and everywhere robustly right-skewed (i.e., sharp adolescent peak)—a thesis that is both contested and widely accepted in criminology and social science writings. In the study described here, we tested this age–crime invariance thesis by comparing age–crime patterns in Taiwan (a non-Western Chinese society) with those in the United States. In light of Taiwan's collectivist culture versus the U.S. individualist gestalt, we anticipated more divergence than homogeneity in their age–crime schedules. Our findings show robust divergence in Taiwan's age–crime patterns compared with U.S. patterns and the reverted J-shaped norm projected by Hirschi and Gottfredson. Implications for research and theory on the age–crime relation and for studying human development or life-course topics more broadly are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)377-404
Number of pages28
JournalCriminology
Volume55
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2017

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All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Law

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