The Effects of Transition to Fatherhood on Participation in Illegal Behavior: An Ethnographic Examination of Crime and the Life Course

Mercer Sullivan, Rutgers University

The transition to fatherhood can have two possible and opposite effects on a male's likelihood of engaging in criminal behavior. For some individuals who have already been criminally active, becoming a father may be a life event that hastens maturation out of crime into a more pro-social adult life course. For others, the advent of fatherhood may be an unplanned and disorienting experience that constitutes one more concaternating event in a downward spiral of cumulative disadvantage. Existing research on such questions has focused more on marriage than fatherhood and has been conducted primarioly with a paradigm of risk and protective factors, with relatively little attention to the social processes connecting antecedents and outcomes. Comparative ethnographic data on three communities differing in social class and race/ethnicity demonstrate the ways in which distinctive social processes mediating the transition to fatherhood are emnbedded in community context.

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Updated 05/20/2006