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Explaining Crime and Criminal Careers: the DEA Model of Situational Action Theory

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Wikström, Per-Olof H. 


Abstract: Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to outline Situational Action Theory (SAT) and its Developmental Ecological Action Model (DEA model) as applied to the explanation of criminal careers. The DEA model of SAT was first presented by Wikström in 2005, [34]), and subsequently refined in Wikström and Treiber in 2018, [43]), and is further elaborated in this paper. Methods: This paper provides a theoretical analysis of the role of crime causation in the explanation of criminal careers and pathways in crime. The central argument is that if we want to explain stability and change in people’s crime involvement we first have to understand what factors and processes move people to commit acts of crime. Only then can we adequately assess what factors and processes are involved in the explanation of criminal careers and people’s differential pathways (trajectories) in crime. Results: The DEA model of SAT address some of the main limitations of current dominant explanatory approaches in Developmental and Life-Course (DLC) Criminology [39], and champions a general, dynamic and mechanism-based account of the causes of crime [38], and the drivers of criminal careers [47]. It integrates and extends key insights from two great but poorly amalgamated traditions in the study of crime and its causes: the individual/developmental and ecological/environmental traditions. It provides a new approach to the study and explanation of crime and criminal careers with implications for how we approach the problem of crime prevention policy and practise.


Funder: University of Cambridge


Original Article, Crime, Criminal careers, Causes, Causal mechanisms, Situational action theory, The developmental ecological action model

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Journal of Developmental and Life-Course Criminology

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Springer International Publishing