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General Assessments And Thresholds For Chronic Offending: An Enriched Paradigm For Explaining Crime



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General assessments refer to individuals’ overall judgment of their standing on broad dimensions that have special relevance for the explanation of crime, such as their overall bond to society or their prospects for success. These assessments are partly a function of the independent variables that are commonly considered in contemporary crime theories and quantitative research. But these standard etiological variables are far from fully determinative of general assessments because individuals differ in how they interpret, weigh, and combine their standing along these variables. The social–psychological factors that affect the subjective judgments underlying general assessments have yet to be theorized in any comprehensive, systematic manner. Nevertheless, we hypothesize that the incorporation of general assessments in models of offending will greatly enhance their explanatory power because these assessments are the most proximate, comprehensive, and personally relevant causes of crime. Moreover, we anticipate that once these assessments reach certain threshold levels, such as the view that bonds to society are severed irreparably or success is beyond reach, they result in a nonlinear jump in the frequency, seriousness, and duration of offending (i.e., chronic offending). A consideration of general assessments and their associated thresholds should therefore substantially improve efforts to explain crime.