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

NCJ Number
Journal of Criminal Justice Volume: 39 Issue: 5 Dated: September/October 2011 Pages: 405-416
Date Published
12 pages

This longitudinal study draws on four waves of adolescent and young adult interview data and HLM regression models in order 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 the desire to be pregnant ("wantedness").


At the individual level, the study hypothesized that a positive attitude toward the pregnancy should influence the likelihood that parenthood would be beneficial to desistance from crime. The result of the analysis supports this view; however, basic descriptive data indicate that a majority of births were unwanted, but an examination of conditional effects showed that even an unwanted birth was associated with reduced crime among more advantaged respondents. The qualitative data also suggest the need to move beyond this general orientation toward the pregnancy in order to capture the centrality/place of parenthood in the individual's "hierarchy of salience" (Stryker, 2008), and the degree to which individuals come to make a particular sort of cognitive connection; namely, that parenthood is fundamentally incompatible with the partying, drug dealing, or other actions that are linked to continued legal problems. The study was also attentive to the relationship domain, i.e., whether the individual cohabited with/was married to the other biological parent. Generally, relationship status was not a significant conditional factor; however, mothers living with the biological father experienced marginally significant reductions in criminal activity, as did similarly situated advantaged male respondents. The quantitative results showed significant effects for socioeconomic status on the parenthood-crime relationship. Having children was not strongly linked with changes in the criminal trajectories of disadvantaged respondents. 4 tables, 10 notes, and 77 references

Date Published: January 1, 2011