Criminal careers, desistance and subjectivity: Interpreting men's narratives of change

David Gadd, Stephen Farrall

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This article analyses the life-stories told by two men who appeared to be desisting from crime. At the time of their respective interviews, both men had reduced the frequency and intensity of their offending behaviours, although neither man had completely stopped offending. Using these men's life-stories, the authors endorse Shadd Maruna's argument that the study of criminal careers and desistance needs to embrace a more adequately psychosocial conception of subjectivity. However, in contrast to the cognitive approach preferred by Maruna, the authors seek to demonstrate that an interpretive approach to narrative material, sensitive to the possibility of unconscious motivations, better explains some of the contradictions evident in desisters' life-stories, especially in relation to the heavily gendered issue of family formation. The authors draw particularly on the psychoanalytic work of Tony Jefferson to make their argument.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)123-156
Number of pages33
JournalTheoretical Criminology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2004


  • Criminal careers
  • Desistance
  • Masculinities
  • Psychosocial
  • Subjectivity
  • Violence


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