Exploring the criminal lifestyle: a grounded theory study of Maltese male habitual offenders

Marilyn Clark


Exploring the lifestyles of habitual criminals throws light on the processes of becoming and remaining a criminal, the development of criminal careers and on possible interventions geared towards reversing those careers. This paper draws on narratives of habitual criminals discussing their life stories and shows how the criminal lifestyle is characterised by distinctive behavioural patterns and sustained by a particular ‘habitus’. The lifestyle offers advantages to those who choose to pursue it. The development of commitment to the criminal lifestyle is put forward as an important defining factor of whether young men stop offending as they approach adulthood and the assumption of adult roles, or whether they continue to offend, often with increasing severity, well into their adult years. As a result of commitment, the actor comes to reject alternatives and defines himself according to the behaviour he is consistently engaging in. Once a social identity has been established, rejection of that identity becomes even more difficult. The criminal lifestyle is not only maintained by penalties when the offender attempts to return to conventional living but is also supported by rewards associated with the criminal lifestyle and supported by role identification, specific attitudes, cognitions.

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International Journal of Criminology and Sociological Theory | ISSN : 1916-2782