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Expertise, emotion and specialization in the development of persistent burglary

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This article describes a qualitative analysis of interviews conducted among 70 experienced residential burglars regarding the reasons for getting involved in and maintaining criminal behaviour. Themes emerging reflected an interaction between skill-development and affect, which played a key role in the initiation and continuation of burglary-related behaviour. Early participation in burglary seemed to be strongly influenced by the desire for excitement. Over time this diminished and was replaced by habitual engagement in burglary. With respect to the actual commission of offences, automatic decision-making appeared to be characteristic of the entire decision-chain, from initial thoughts to the commission of the burglary. Implications of the interaction between affect, cognition and expertise on diversification, specialization and desistance from crime are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
JournalThe British Journal of Criminology
Early online date21 Feb 2020
Publication statusEarly online - 21 Feb 2020


  • Expertise Emotion and Specialisation

    Rights statement: This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced version of an article accepted for publication in The British Journal of Criminology following peer review. The version of record Amy Meenaghan, Claire Nee, Jean-Louis Van Gelder, Zarah Vernham, Marco Otte, Expertise, Emotion and Specialization in the Development of Persistent Burglary, The British Journal of Criminology, , azz078, is available online at:

    Accepted author manuscript (Post-print), 255 KB, PDF document

    Due to publisher’s copyright restrictions, this document is not freely available to download from this website until: 21/02/22

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