Social lives and crime
About the project
The current study is a collaboration between two longitudinal studies in Sweden and Great Britain: The Malmö Individual and Neighbourhood Development Study (MINDS) and The Peterborough Adolescent and Young Adult Development Study (PADS+). The studies were originally designed to make cross-national comparisons possible, for example, to study how differences in social structure and welfare provision, as well as the operations of the criminal justice system, may impact on the countries’ differences in crime involvement and other forms of deviant behaviour.
The studies are designed with the purpose to overcome one of the biggest shortcomings of criminological research to date, viz. the lack of adequate research into how the interplay between people’s crime propensity and criminogenic exposure affects their crime involvement and criminal careers. To study young people’s social lives means looking beyond their homes and neighbourhoods to capture everywhere they spend their time. To do so comprehensively requires a self-contained study area in which they can act out all major aspects of their lives. A city is just such an environment. An urban area, such as a city, is a habitat that provides all the amenities necessary for physical and social life. Studying social lives in cities is important not only because cities provide the right kind of self-contained environment, but also because most people live in urban areas, even though such areas cover a small proportion of the landmass.
The overall aim with the project is to advance knowledge about the role of the social environment and its interaction with personal characteristics and experiences in crime causation in two European cities, Malmö and Peterborough.
We will explore:
- the role of the interaction between young people’s crime propensity and exposure to criminogenic settings in crime causation,
- the personal characteristics and experiences that affect young people’s differential exposure to criminogenic settings.
One specific aim is to:
- identify different pathways of development and their relationship to different patterns of crime involvement (e.g., different patterns of onset, escalation and desistence) during the adolescent period and to identify the fundamental individual and environmental factors that interact in influencing why a young person embarks on one, rather than another, pathway.
The generative mechanisms behind crimes are probably quite robust and possible to identify in the two countries. However, these mechanisms could be affected and modulated to some extent by country differences in conditions at the macro and meso level. Such differences are present in the judicial systems of England and Sweden, including the system for identifying and respond to criminality in the early teens.
There are substantial differences in the school systems (earlier school start and a more pronounced differentiation with respect to privatization in England). Economic segregation (and poverty) appears to be more common in England, and more affected by association with the concept of class. The labour market is less regulated, affecting thresholds for job entry, particularly for young people. The number of immigrants in the two countries is not very different but countries of origin differ substantially.
Both countries are welfare states but there are differences in the design of the systems and acceptance of cumulated disadvantage. The data generated by the current project offers a unique opportunity to analyze the possible impact (causal power) of these differences on the pattern of developing criminality among young individuals, compared to analyses which are performed on aggregated data.