Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences


Sociology and Anthropology

Committee Chair

Rachel E Stein


Understanding the disparity in the amount of punishment between youth and adults, for violent and non-violent criminal activity, remains a matter of theoretical debate. In the present study, the research employs deterrence and labeling theory, through a life course theoretical framework, to assess the extent to which the punishments for violent and non-violent crimes follow different trajectories. The deterrence theory posits an individual will refrain and deter from future offending if the consequence of the crime committed outweighs the actual crime itself. The labeling theory focuses on the labels applied to an individual, and if that label influences the individual's behavior, and promotes future deviant behavior. The life course theory focuses on the connections made in an individual's life and predicts that early events one endures in life can predict their future decisions. This study utilizes the NCRP data set, which consists of questionnaires distributed to inmates in custody for the 2003 calendar year. These data show the amount of punishment given to youth and adults for the same type of crime. Disaggregating by offenses reveals, however, that youth are punished more severely for robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, and larceny. These findings raise questions about the definite effects of the deterrence and labeling process on crime progressions, and suggest the need to continue to investigate the theories that differentiate between youths and adults in relation to specific types of offending.