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Crime & the Life Course - SPY00035I

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  • Department: Social Policy and Social Work
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Rachel Vipond
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: I
  • Academic year of delivery: 2024-25
    • See module specification for other years: 2023-24

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 1 2024-25

Module aims

Why do some people commit crime and others do not? What makes people start and stop offending? Are people born with a predisposition to committing crime? How far do stigma, inequality and failures in social justice explain crime? What role do gender, ethnicity and sexuality play in crime? These are all questions this module seeks to explore. The module takes the life course as its central premise and will unpack the relationship between the key stages in life - namely childhood, youth/adolescence, adulthood and old age - and crime. The module aims to provide students with an explanatory and theoretical understanding focusing on central theoretical ideas about risk and protective factors particularly in childhood and youth; onset of offending; natural desistance in adolescence; and persistence and desistance in adulthood and into older age. These will then be assessed as to how they can contribute to criminal justice policy and practice. The module will draw upon creative and innovative research on the life course, including qualitative longitudinal research and biographical research that explores life stories of offending, re-offending and desisting and persisting. The module will help you understand the importance of the life course, how individual lives are linked to social structures, and how individual biographies can illuminate the complex factors that hinder or support successful transitions through the life course. By doing so, the module will also draw attention to the importance of ‘turning points’ or ‘critical moments’ that help explain routes to offending and desistance across the life course.

This module aims to enable students to

  • Apply theoretical frameworks of the life course to help understand trajectories of offending and desisting.
  • Develop a critical appreciation of research on criminal careers (their nature, extent, patterns, contexts and consequences), and of the discipline of developmental criminology within which much of this research is located.
  • Explore debates about a number of issues to which life course and developmental criminology seeks to explore and assess how a look at institutions of social policy influence and shape the debate.
  • Assess aspects of difference and diversity, i.e. gender, class, disability and ethnicity, and how these relate to the life course and criminal careers.
  • Apply this developed knowledge to social and criminal justice policy making and practice.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of this module, you will be able to:

  • Articulate what life course and developmental criminology is, its purpose, usefulness, and be able to critically apply it to a range of scenarios.

  • Critically evaluate responses of the CJS, government and NGOs to criminality across the life course;

  • Understand the intersectional nature of criminality, re-offending and desistance.

  • Understand the situational and constructed nature of crime and responses to it and how these fluctuate and change over the life course.

  • Critically assess policy and practice responses to crime.


Task Length % of module mark
Policy Report
N/A 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Policy Report
N/A 100

Module feedback

Feedback will be given in accordance with the University Policy on feedback in the Guide to Assessment as well as in line with the School policy.

Indicative reading

  • Elder, G., Kirkpatrick Johnson, M. and Crosnoe, R (2003) ‘The Emergence and Development of Life Course Theory’, in Mortimer, J and Shanahan, M (eds.), Handbook of the Life Course. New York: Plenum.

  • Laub, J and Sampson, R. (2006) Shared Beginnings, Divergent Lives. Delinquent Boys to Age 70. Harvard University Press.

  • Benson, M (2013) Crime and the Life Course. London: Routledge

  • Maruna, S (2001) Making Good: How ex-convicts reform and rebuild their lives. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association

  • Farrington, D and Coid, J (eds) (2003) Early Prevention of Adult Antisocial Behaviour. Cambridge: CUP.

  • Roberts, B. (2002) Biographical Research. Berkshire: Open University Press.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.