| Link to article in Criminal Behaviour and Mental Health |
Abstract Background: Weapons and drug offences incur a large cost to society and tend to be strongly associated. Improved understanding of their antecedents could inform targeted early intervention and prevention programmes. Aim: This study aimed to examine differences in criminal careers, childhood predictors and adolescent correlates among weapons-only offenders, drugs-only offenders and a versatile group of weapons + drugs offenders. Method: We conducted a longitudinal records study of 455 young Canadians charged with drug and/or weapons offences who started their offending in late childhood/early adolescence. Results: Consistent with expectation, differences emerged in their criminal careers as the versatile group had a longer criminal career and desisted from offending at a later age than weapons-only offenders. Against prediction, weapons-only offenders experienced the greatest number of childhood predictors and adolescent correlates. Conclusions: The three offending groups could be differentiated on offending trajectories and developmental factors.In making links between past events and later behaviour, life-course criminology may inform development of effective early intervention and prevention strategies.As weapons-only offenders experience the greatest level of adversity in childhood and adolescence, they may benefit most (of these three groups) from early intervention and prevention programmes. A reduction in weapon carrying and use might be achieved by early identification of children risk factors (e.g. family adversity) and appropriate intervention.