Labeling, Life-Chances, and Adult Crime: Direct and Indirect Effect of Official Intervention in Adolescence on Delinquent Behavior in Early Adulthood

Jon Gunnar Bernburg, University at Albany
Marvin D. Krohn, University at Albany

The purpose of the present study is to assess recent efforts to revitalize labeling theory as a developmental theory of structural disadvantage. Structural labeling theory argues that official intervention increases the probability of involvement in subsequent delinquency and deviance because intervention triggers exclusionary processes that have negative consequences for conventional opportunities. The theory predicts that official intervention in adolescence increases involvement in delinquency in early adulthood due to the negative effect of intervention on educational attainment and employment stability. Using panel design data that spans early adolescence through early adulthood, we find considerable support for this revised labeling approach. Official intervention in youth has significant, positive effect on delinquency in early adulthood, and this effect is partly mediated by educational attainment and employment instability.

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Updated 05/20/2006