Poverty and InequalitySexual and Reproductive HealthFamily, Maternal & Child HealthMethodology

Marriage and offending among a cohort of disadvantaged African Americans

TitleMarriage and offending among a cohort of disadvantaged African Americans
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsDoherty, EE, Ensminger, ME
JournalJournal of Research in Crime and Delinquency
Date PublishedFeb
ISBN Number00224278 (ISSN)
Accession Number24817770
Keywordscriminological theory, desistance from crime, developmental theories, life-course theory, race/ethnicity

Objectives: Drawing on Sampson and Laub's age-graded theory of informal social control, this research tests the generalizability of the marriage effect on desistance from crime. Specifically, do urban African American men and women living in the United States benefit from marriage similarly to Whites? Methods: The authors use hierarchical linear modeling (HLM) to analyze the relationship between marriage and official arrest counts among African American male and female first graders from Woodlawn, an inner-city community in Chicago, first assessed in 1966 and followed up at three time points (ages 16, 32, and 42). Results: The authors find strong evidence of a marriage effect for the males across crime type, with a reduction in offending between 21 percent and 36 percent when in a state of marriage. The findings for females were less consistent across crime type, a 10 percent reduction in the odds of a property arrest and a 9 percent increase in the odds of a drug arrest when in a state of marriage. Conclusions: Their findings provide evidence in favor of the generality of Sampson and Laub's theory, at least for males. However, the authors were not able to evaluate the mechanisms of desistance and identify this as an area of future research. © The Author(s) 2013.