Journal of Quantitative Criminology

, Volume 25, Issue 1, pp 3–24 | Cite as

Marriage and Desistance from Crime in the Netherlands: Do Gender and Socio-Historical Context Matter?

  • Bianca E. BersaniEmail author
  • John H. Laub
  • Paul Nieuwbeerta
Original Paper


Over the last two decades, research examining desistance from crime in adulthood has steadily increased. The evidence from this body of research consistently demonstrates that salient life events—in particular, marriage—are associated with a reduction of offending across the life course. However, previous studies have been largely limited to male samples in the United States. As a result, questions regarding the universal effect of these relationships remain. Specifically, research is needed to assess whether the desistance effect of life events like marriage varies by gender and/or socio-historical context in countries other than the U.S. The present research addresses these gaps by examining the relationship between marriage and criminal offending using data from the Criminal Career and Life Course Study (CCLS). The CCLS includes criminal conviction histories spanning a large portion of the life course for nearly 5,000 men and women convicted in the Netherlands in 1977. Because we assess change over multiple observations within and between individuals, we utilize hierarchical models to estimate gender and contextual effects of marriage on criminal offending (i.e., any, violent, and property convictions). Overall, we find consistent support for the idea that marriage reduces offending across gender and socio-historical context. Notably, we find that the reduction in the odds of offending due to marriage is significantly greater for individuals in the most contemporary context. The implications of these findings are discussed.


Marriage Desistance Gender Socio-historical context 



The authors would like to thank Wayne Osgood, David Kirk, and Terceira Berdahl for their comments on an earlier version of this paper. In addition, the authors thank the editor of JQC and the three reviewers for their helpful comments and assistance in improving the paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bianca E. Bersani
    • 1
    Email author
  • John H. Laub
    • 1
  • Paul Nieuwbeerta
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Criminology and Criminal JusticeUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkUSA
  2. 2.Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement (NSCR)LeidenThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Department of SociologyUtrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands

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