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Crime and the Transition to Marriage: The Role of the Spouse's Criminal Involvement

NCJ Number
British Journal of Criminology Volume: 54 Issue: 3 Dated: May 2014 Pages: 411-427
Torbjørn Skardhamar; Christian W. Monsbakken; Torkild H. Lyngstad
Date Published
May 2014
17 pages
Using data from Norwegian administrative registers that cover the population of all persons who married in Norway between 1997 and 2001 (n = 80,064), this study examined how changes in offending were related to marriage, as well as how the patterns varied by the wife's criminal record.
The pattern of change in criminals who married wives with a criminal record unexpectedly showed a greater decline in offending probability after marriage than those offenders who married a wife without a criminal history. The authors speculate that this may be because both spouses have committed themselves to desist from crime and provide mutual understanding and support for avoiding risk factors for offending. The study analysis also focused on the timing of the desistance from crime. It determined that the largest proportion of the decline in offending occurred in the years leading up to marriage. Under the presumption that the offender was in a relationship with his eventual spouse during this period, the prospect of marriage may have provided an incentive to measure up to the potential spouse's qualification that he desist from his criminal lifestyle prior to marriage. The decline in offending then flattened out after marriage; however, for those who married a spouse with a criminal background, the decline in offending continued after marriage, showing that the marriage was a context for a further decline in offending. Whether prior to or during the marriage, the interaction with the prospective spouse before marriage and the interaction after marriage apparently provide incentives to pursue a normative, law-abiding lifestyle, with this incentive being somewhat stronger when the wife also has a criminal history. 1 table, 5 figures, and 46 references