Investing in Marriage: The Relationship Between Time Spent Living With a Wife and Involvement in Criminal Activity

M. Lyn Exum, University of North Carolina - Charlotte
Andre Rosay, University of Alaska Anchorage

Horney et al. (1995) examined how changes in local-life circumstances influenced changes in criminal activity. They found that the probability of offending was typically reduced by 50% when offenders became involved in selected prosocial institutions such as work and marriage. Laub et al. (1998) argue that this "marriage effect" on criminal activity is not necessarily immediate, but instead happens gradually. They find that social capital stemming from a quality marriage grows with time, thereby increasing one's stake in conformity and facilitating the desistance process. The current study further examines this accumulation of social capital and its short-term effects on offending using data from Horney et al.'s study of male offenders in Nebraska. Adopting an investment analogy similar to that of Laub et al., we examine the relationship between the number of months an offender lives with a wife and the probability of re-offending. Implications for theory and future research are discussed.

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Updated 05/20/2006