Beginning in the 1980s, Professor Sampson and his colleague John Laub initiated a program of research on the life course of 1,000 disadvantaged men born in Boston during the Great Depression era. The original data were based on the classic studies that Sheldon and Eleanor Glueck of Harvard Law School published in the mid 20th-century. Sampson and Laub's first book from this project (Crime in the Making: Pathways and Turning Points Through Life, Harvard University Press, 1993), received the outstanding book award from the American Society of Criminology, the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences, and the Crime, Law, and Deviance Section of the American Sociological Association.
A second book from this project, Shared Beginnings, Divergent Lives: Delinquent Boys to Age 70, was published in 2003, also from Harvard University Press. This follow-up study integrated narrative life-histories with the quantitative analysis of life-course trajectories across seven decades in the lives of the formerly incarcerated and troubled Boston adolescents. Shared Beginnings, Divergent Lives received the outstanding book award from the American Society of Criminology, the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences, and the Crime, Law, and Deviance Section of the American Sociological Association. Dozens of journal articles and book chapters have also been published based on theoretical work and empirical analyses of the Glueck archives and the Laub-Sampson follow-up--for a selection of publications see the links below. In 2011, Laub and Sampson received the The Stockholm Prize for the their research showing why and how criminals stop offending based on their life-course research.
Professor Sampson's current work focuses on crime, punishment, and social change over the life course. In addition to articles in progress, he is writing a book on a long-term follow-up of over 1,000 children originally selected for the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods. For one article on this project see
Neil, Roland and Robert J. Sampson. 2021. The Birth Lottery of History: Arrest over the Life Course of Multiple Cohorts Coming of Age, 1995-2018. American Journal of Sociology 126: March (5): 1127–1178.
For more on the Chicago crime and social change project, click here.
Selected Articles from the Boston project:
Neil, Roland, Robert J. Sampson, and Daniel S. Nagin. 2021. "Social Change and Cohort Differences in Group-Based Arrest Trajectories over the Last Quarter-Century." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 118: https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2107020118. See also Social Change and the Explanation of Criminal Offender Groups.
Laub, John H. and Robert J. Sampson. 2020. “Life-Course and Developmental Criminology: Looking Back, Moving Forward.” Journal of Developmental and Life-Course Criminology: 6:158–171.
Sampson, Robert J. and John H. Laub. 2016. "Turning Points and the Future of Life-Course Criminology: Reflections on the 1986 Criminal Careers Report." Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 53: 321-335.
Sampson, Robert J. 2015. “Crime and the Life-Course in a Changing World: Insights from Chicago and Implications for Global Criminology.” Asian Journal of Criminology 10:277–286.
Kirk, David and Robert J. Sampson. 2013. “Juvenile Arrest and Collateral Educational Damage in the Transition to Adulthood.” Sociology of Education 86: 36–62.
Sampson, Robert J., John H. Laub and Christopher Wimer. 2006. Does Marriage Reduce Crime? A Counterfactual Approach to Within-Individual Causal Effects. Criminology 44(3):465-508.
Sampson, Robert J. and John H. Laub. 2005. A Life-Course View of the Development of Crime. ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. 602: 12-45; 73-79.
Sampson, Robert J. and John H. Laub. 2003. Life-Course Desisters? Trajectories of Crime among Delinquent Boys Followed to Age 70. Criminology 41: 319-339. See also: Seductions of Method: Rejoinder to Nagin and Tremblay's "Developmental Trajectory Groups: Fact or Useful Fiction?" Criminology 43: 905-913.
Sampson, Robert J. and John H. Laub. 2003. Desistance from Crime over the Life Course. Pp. 295-310 in Handbook of the Life Course, edited by Jeylan T. Mortimer and Michael Shanahan. New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum.
Laub, John, Daniel Nagin, and Robert J. Sampson. 1998. Trajectories of Change in Criminal Offending: Good Marriages and the Desistance Process. American Sociological Review 63: 225-238.
Sampson, Robert J. and John H. Laub. 1997. A Life-Course Theory of Cumulative Disadvantage and the Stability of Delinquency. Pp. 133-161 in Developmental Theories of Crime and Delinquency. (Advances in Criminological Theory, Volume 7), edited by Terence P. Thornberry. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction.
Sampson, Robert J. and John H. Laub. 1996. Socioeconomic Achievement in the Life Course of Disadvantaged Men: Military Service as a Turning Point, circa 1940-1965. American Sociological Review 61: 347-367.
Sampson, Robert J. and John H. Laub. 1994 . Urban Poverty and the Family Context of Delinquency: A New Look at Structure and Process in a Classic Study. Child Development 65:523-540 (special refereed issue on "Children and Poverty").
Laub, John H. and Robert J. Sampson. 1993. Turning Points in the Life Course: Why Change Matters to the Study of Crime. Criminology 31:301-325.
Sampson, Robert J. and John H. Laub. 1992. Crime and Deviance in the Life Course. Annual Review of Sociology 18:63-84.
Sampson, Robert J. and John H. Laub. 1990. Crime and Deviance Over the Life Course: The Salience of Adult Social Bonds. American Sociological Review 55:609-627.
Laub, John and Robert J. Sampson. 1988. Unraveling Families and Delinquency: A Reanalysis of the Gluecks' Data. Criminology 26:355-380.
See Vita for additional publications on crime and the life course.