John Laub and Robert Sampson Awarded Stockholm Prize

NIJ Director John H. Laub, Ph.D., and his long-time research partner, Robert J. Sampson, Ph.D., of Harvard University, are joint recipients of the 2011 Stockholm Prize in Criminology. They received the award for their research on how and why criminals stop offending. The award winners were announced at the annual meeting of the American Society of Criminology in San Francisco in November 2010. They will accept the award at a gala event in Stockholm, June 13–15, 2011.

Laub and Sampson are the authors of the longest life-course study of criminal behavior ever conducted. They found that even highly active criminals can stop committing crimes after key turning points in life. These turning points include marriage, military service, employment and the joining of other institutions and social networks that result in a cutting off of one's ties to offending peer groups.

"The challenge of doing longitudinal studies of crime is that — as the old adage goes — lives are lived forward but can only be understood backwards."
Dr. John H. Laub

The study followed 500 juvenile males who were sent to reform school in the 1930s. Data about each man was collected at ages 14, 25 and 32. The sample and early-life results were the work of Harvard Law School scholars Sheldon and Eleanor Glueck. Laub discovered the boxes of the Glueck data in the basement of Harvard Law School in 1986. Laub and Sampson applied for a grant from NIJ to be used to computerize the Glueck data. Then they combined new rounds of interviews with the men, who were then in their late 60s, with data drawn from a range of official sources. The resulting analysis helped Laub and Sampson show that desistance from crime is a process, not an event.

"The challenge of doing longitudinal studies of crime," says Dr. Laub, "is that — as the old adage goes — lives are lived forward but can only be understood backwards."

Laub and Sampson have written two award-winning books on the life course of the men: Crime in the Making: Pathways and Turning Points Through Life (1993) and Shared Beginnings, Divergent Lives: Delinquent Boys to Age 70 (2003). Both were published by Harvard University Press.

James K. "Chips" Stewart, former director of NIJ who made the initial award to Laub and Sampson, had this to say about the Prize: "It pleases me that research of this caliber is becoming a valued part of the national, regional and local public policy discussion. I am proud to see that investments that I made as NIJ Director actually are making an important difference. Your research (together with Rob Sampson's) on turning points in criminal careers has and will continue to be significant."

The Stockholm Prize in Criminology recognizes outstanding achievements in the field of criminological research. Winners are selected by an independent jury.

Date Modified: February 16, 2011