Chongmin Na, Raymond Paternoster, and Ronet Bachman were awarded the Outstanding Article Award from the ASC Division of Developmental and Life-Course Criminology for "Within Individual Change in Arrest in a Sample of Serious Offenders: The Role of Identity." Journal of Developmental and Life-Course Criminology 1(4): 385-410.
Objective Paternoster and Bushway (2009) have recently proposed and developed (Bushway and Paternoster 2012, 2013) an identity theory of desistance (ITD). The current study is an initial attempt to empirically examine the tenability of the ITD by assessing whether self-identity and intentional self-change are critically involved in the desistance process among a sample of serious drug-involved adult criminal offenders. Methods Using arrest data from a sample of released prison inmates with non-trivial drug problems and a modified version of conventional random-effects model, we examine the role of a good or favorable identity and pro-social “agentic moves” (Giordano et al. 2002) in period-to period changes in drug use and arrest from the early 1990s until 2008. Results The effect of good identity on self-reported drug use remained significant even after controlling for unobserved heterogeneity and other theoretically relevant covariates, whereas its effect on arrest became weaker and statistically non-significant when these covariates were simultaneously considered. Conclusions While we find only partial support for the ITD, we hope our initial effort to assess the feasibility of the ITD can facilitate further theoretical sophistication and tests of a number of other interesting hypotheses that can address many questions left unanswered in the existing desistance literature.