Combining desistance and criminal career theoretical perspectives to understand reoffending
: a qualitative exploration of people’s reasons for returning to or persisting with crime

  • Megan Coghlan

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The aim of this research is to attain an in-depth understanding of men and women’s reoffending experiences in Ireland. This is important as research on reoffending in Ireland so far has been quantitative with male samples. In addition, research on understanding reoffending experiences is scarce compared to research understanding desistance. To fulfil this aim, desistance and criminal career research were firstly analysed to create a theoretical and conceptual framework to underpin the research in this thesis. Primary research consisted of collecting qualitative and a small amount of quantitative data with a cohort of 18 men and 10 women serving Probation in Ireland between 2016-2018. The epistemology in this research was interpretivist meaning that semi-structured interviews were the main method and a vignette and questionnaire were used to support findings. Semi-structured interviews and vignettes were analysed thematically and data collected from the questionnaire was analysed using the statistical package for the social sciences. To understand why people continue with and/or return to crime this research found two global themes, that people engage in reoffending as a coping mechanism and that people engage in reoffending as they can gain from reoffending. Men and women had differing reasons for continuing with and/or returning to crime that depended on an individual’s development, subjective state, social bonds, and wider surrounding structure. Based on this analysis this research proposes four different modes of reoffending behaviour: persistent reoffending, substance abuse related reoffending, intermittent reoffending, and returns to reoffending. This reoffending paradigm offers an in-depth understanding of men and women’s reoffending behaviour and highlights the complexity of people’s justifications for reoffending which has implications for practice that will be discussed.
Date of Award2022
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorDennis Gough (Supervisor), Madeline Ruth Petrillo (Supervisor) & Jacqueline Denise Tapley (Supervisor)

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