Waxing and Waning: Periods of Intermittency in Criminal Careers

Vere van Koppen*, Elanie Rodermond, Arjan Blokland

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Objectives: Focusing on intermittency as a specific criminal career dimension, the present study explores the distribution of intermittency as it occurs across individuals and in the course of the criminal career. Methods: Using conviction data on repeat offenders (N = 3716) from the Criminal Career and Life-Course Study (CCLS), overall patterns of intermittency (measured as conviction-free intervals between subsequent convictions) are analyzed. Given different levels of offending before and after conviction-free periods, we examine the length of the conviction-free interval and the extent to which offending in terms of frequency and specialization changes after a conviction-free period. Results: On average, repeat offenders show relatively short intermittency periods. However, conviction-free intervals tend to increase towards the end of the criminal career regardless of offending frequency. A substantial minority of offenders has a criminal career characterized by more than one spell of frequent offending separated by an extended period of non-offending. As the intermittency period increases, offending specialization across offending periods declines, but not for all types of offenses. Conclusions: This study shows that even after committing several offenses, some offenders experience a prolonged conviction-free interval only to resume offending at a non-trivial rate. Due to the length of their conviction-free interval, these offenders would erroneously have been labeled desisters in many prior studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-24
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Developmental and Life-Course Criminology
Issue number1
Early online date7 Mar 2020
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020


  • Crime-free periods
  • Criminal careers
  • Intermittency


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