Is Marriage a Turning Point in Deviant Life Courses? Endogeneity, Marital Quality, and Involvement in Crime and Deviance in Early Adulthood

Ross MacMillan, University of Minnesota - Twin Cities

The idea that life course transitions can be "turning points" in deviant life courses is an increasingly important idea in contemporary criminology. From this perspective, some argue that marriages can be important sources of social capital that deflect deviant trajectories. Others suggest that underlying propensities and processes of self-selection render marriages, both good or bad, substantively unimportant for criminal offending. This paper draws upon theory and research on marital formation to conceptualize marriage and participation in crime as a jointly determined process. From this perspective, prior attempts to statistically estimate the effects of marriage on offending have typically failed to account for their endogenous relationship and may present a misleading view of the role of marriages in offending over the life course. The present research further examines the effects of marriage using latent class analysis and endogenous switching regression techniques that account for the contingent relationship of marital quality and involvement in crime and deviance. Results suggest limits to traditional statistical approaches for examining the effects of marriage on offending and highlight the importance of underlying propensities for understanding links between deviant and normative activities over the life course.

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Updated 05/20/2006