The Pathways to Desistance study was a multi-site study that followed 1,354 serious juvenile offenders from adolescence to young adulthood in two locales between the years 2000 and 2010. Enrolled into the study were adjudicated youths from the juvenile and adult court systems in Maricopa County (Phoenix), Arizona (N=654) and Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania (N=700).
Respondents were enrolled and baseline interviews conducted from November 2000 to January 2003. Follow-up interviews were then scheduled with the respondents at 6, 12, 18, 24, 30, 36, 48, 60, 72 and 84 months past their baseline interview.
The enrolled youth were at least 14 years old and under 18 years old at the time of their committing offense and were found guilty of a serious offense (predominantly felonies, with a few exceptions for some misdemeanor property offenses, sexual assault, or weapons offenses).
The baseline interview was conducted within 75 days of the youth's adjudication hearing. For youths in the adult system, the baseline interview was conducted within 90 days of either (a) the decertification hearing in Philadelphia, a hearing at which it is determined if the case will remain in adult court or if it will be sent back to juvenile court; or (b) the adult arraignment hearing in Phoenix, the point in the Arizona adult system at which charges have been formally presented.
The aims of the investigation were to identify initial patterns of how serious adolescent offenders stop antisocial activity, to describe the role of social context and developmental changes in promoting these positive changes, and to compare the effects of sanctions and interventions in promoting these changes. The larger goals of the Pathways to Desistance study were to improve decision-making by court and social service personnel and to clarify policy debates about alternatives for serious adolescent offenders. The study relied primarily on self-report information from study participants.
Each wave of data collection covered six domains: (1) background characteristics (e.g., demographics, academic achievement, psychiatric diagnoses, offense history, neurological functioning, psychopathy, personality), (2) indicators of individual functioning (e.g., work and school status and performance, substance abuse, mental disorder, antisocial behavior), (3) psychosocial development and attitudes (e.g., impulse control, susceptibility to peer influence, perceptions of opportunity, perceptions of procedural justice, moral disengagement), (4) family context (e.g., household composition, quality of family relationships), (5) personal relationships (e.g., quality of romantic relationships and friendships, peer delinquency, contacts with caring adults), and (6) community context (e.g., neighborhood conditions, personal capital, and community involvement). Information about the measures used to capture this information can be found on the Pathways to Desistance website.