This article outlines the methodology for the Pathways to Desistance study, a multisite, longitudinal study of serious juvenile offenders, and discusses the key operational decisions with the greatest impact on the study design.
The Pathways to Desistance Project is a large scale, two-site longitudinal examination of desistance from crime among adolescent serious offenders. This study was an attempt to elucidate how developmental processes, social context, and intervention and sanctioning experiences affect the process of desistance from crime. The study employed a prospective design with a broad measurement focus and multiple sources of information to provide a picture of intraindividual change over time. It also provided a strong description of changes in functioning, psychological development, and social context among adolescent serious offenders during late adolescence, and to access the effects of maturation, changes in social context, and sanctioning and intervention experiences on positive and negative changes in behavior, psychological functioning, and the transition into adult roles. This article describes some of the key practical and logistical challenges found most salient for maintaining the integrity of the original intent of the study. The article addresses the subset of issues confronted that had the greatest impact on the study design and the study's eventual interpretability. The article presents an operational overview of the Pathways study, discusses specific challenges to the implementation of the project, and summarizes the implications and lessons that can be drawn from the experience. References