Sociology Faculty Publications


Parenthood and Crime: The Role of Wantedness, Relationships with Partners, and Ses

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PURPOSE: Parenthood may play a pivotal role in the criminal desistance process, but few studies have examined the conditions under which becoming a mother or father is most likely to lead to reductions in criminal behavior.

METHODS: The current longitudinal study draws on four waves of adolescent and young adult interview data (N = 1,066) and HLM regression models to examine the impact of parenthood on criminal trajectories, as well as the degree to which the prosocial potential of parenthood is modified by socioeconomic factors, the nature of the relationship between the biological parents, and pregnancy wantedness. The analysis also draws on narrative life history accounts elicited from a subset of these respondents (N = 22).

RESULTS: SES and the wantedness of the pregnancy condition the relationship between parenthood and criminal involvement, however some gender differences emerged. Status of the relationship (married or cohabiting and single) was in general not a strong predictor.

CONCLUSIONS: Highly disadvantaged young men and women are not as likely as more advantaged young adults to evidence lower levels of criminal behavior after becoming parents, however wanted pregnancies may reduce female involvement in crime regardless of socioeconomic status. In-depth qualitative data further elucidate the conditional nature of the parenthood-crime relationship.

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Availability via databases maintained by the United States National Library of Medicine.

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Journal of Criminal Justice

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