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MOTHERHOOD AND CRIMINAL DESISTANCE IN DISADVANTAGED NEIGHBORHOODS

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Evidence from several qualitative studies has suggested that the transition to motherhood has strong inhibitory effects on the delinquency and drug use trajectories of poor women. Quantitative studies, however, typically have failed to find significant parenthood or motherhood effects. We argue that the latter research typically has not examined motherhood in disadvantaged settings or applied the appropriate statistical method. Focusing on within-individual change, we test the motherhood hypothesis using data from a 10-year longitudinal study of more than 500 women living in disadvantaged Denver communities. We find that the transition to motherhood is associated significantly with reductions in delinquency, marijuana, and alcohol behaviors. Moreover, we find that the effect of motherhood is larger than that of marriage for all outcomes. These results support the qualitative findings and suggest that the transition to motherhood—and not marriage—is the primary turning point for disadvantaged women to exit delinquent and drug-using trajectories.
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Keywords: crime trajectories; desistance; life-course transitions; motherhood; parenthood

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Sociology and Crime, Law, and Justice, Pennsylvania State University 2: Department of Sociology, University of Washington 3: Department of Statistics, University of Washington

Publication date: 2010-02-01

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