Trajectories and Turning Points in Women's Criminal Offending: The Role of Motherhood

Carolyn Yule, University of Toronto
Rosemary Gartner, University of Toronto
Carla Cesaroni, University of Toronto

Developmental frameworks highlight the importance of involvement in conventional roles and activities in reducing involvement in crime. This paper engages with developmental perspectives to investigate the reciprocal influences between women's participation in one of the most conventional female roles, that of mother, and women's vionent behavior. If mothers are not a homogeneous group, and the role of mother has different meanings and implications for different women, it may well be that motherhood has a variety of consequences for somen's offending. This would present a challenge to theories of crime which predict that motherhood should decrease women's criminal behavior. Accordingly, we will examine questions of particular import to developmental perspectives, such as whether such "turning points" as entry into motherhood (e.g., pregnancy and birth) as well as "exit" from motherhood (e.g., loss of children to the Children's Aid Society) act to redirect women's offending trajectories or pathways. This research uses qualitative analyses of data from over 200 in-depth interviews from a study of incarcerated women. These interviews were obtained with a retrospective longitudinal design, using a life-events calendar to collect month-by-month accounts of life circumstances and offending incidents for a three-year period.

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Updated 05/20/2006