Explaining Stability and Change in Antisocial Behavior From Adolescence to Young Adulthood

Ronald L. Simons, Iowa State University
Eric A. Stewart, Georgia State University
Leslie C. Gordon, Clemson University

In support of their age-graded, social control theory, Sampson and Laub have provided evidence that adolescent delinquency increases the chances of adult crime because it reduces the probability of adult attachments to marriage and work. Recently, Warr has proffered a social learning explanation for their finding that marriage is associated with desistance from crime. Using a social learning framework, he argues that marriage discourages criminal behavior because it leads to less interaction with deviant friends. Using longitudinal data from a sample of 142 males and 194 females, we tested a model that integrates these social learning and control arguments with the idea of assortative mating. For both males and females, adolescent delinquency and affiliation with deviant peers predicted having an antisocial romantic partner as a young adult. Involvement with an antisocial romantic partner, in turn, had both a direct effect on crime as well as an indirect influence through adult peer affiliations. For females, quality of the romantic relationship also predicted crime. The analyses revealed several moderating influences in addition to these mediating effects. For females, a conventional romantic partner, strong job attachment, and conventional adult friends all served to moderate the chances that a woman with a delinquent history would graduate to adult crime. In contrast, only conventional adult friends served this function for males. The theoretical implications of these findings are discussed.

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Updated 05/20/2006