Psychosocial Maturation, Race, and Desistance from Crime

Abstract

Research on maturation and its relation to antisocial behavior has progressed appreciably in recent years. Psychosocial maturation is a relatively recent concept of development that scholarship has linked to risky behavior. Psychosocial maturation appears to be a promising explanation of the process of exiting criminal behavior, known as desistance from crime. However, to date, research has not examined whether psychosocial maturation is related to desistance in similar ways across race/ethnicity. Using the Pathways to Desistance Study which followed a mixed-race/ethnicity group of serious adolescent offenders for 7 years, this research tested growth in psychosocial maturation across race/ethnic groups. The sample (14.46% female, average age 15.97 at baseline) was composed of white (n = 250), black (n = 463), and Hispanic (n = 414) individuals. The results showed variation in trajectories of psychosocial maturation with blacks having higher initial levels but slower growth in maturation over time compared to whites. Psychosocial maturation was negatively related to crime across all racial/ethnic groups. Across all racial/ethnic groups, differences in the magnitude of the association between psychosocial maturation and desistance were small. Rather than needing distinct theories for specific groups, psychosocial maturation appears to be a general theoretical perspective for understanding desistance from crime across races/ethnicities. Policy formulation based on psychosocial maturation would, therefore, be applicable across racial/ethnic groups.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    We imposed other restrictions on the sample; for example, requiring valid data on at least 6 out of 8 years to calculate the average psychosocial maturation score (see below). If a subject had less than 6 valid psychosocial scores across the 8 years, the score was not calculated at any year.

  2. 2.

    The project website, www.pathwaysstudy.pitt.edu provides information on the study and constructing measures.

  3. 3.

    Individual items of subscales are not available in the data but scale reliabilities are presented at http://www.pathwaysstudy.pitt.edu/.

  4. 4.

    Psychometric properties were also examined by race, finding that the reliabilities of the three main components (Temperance, Perspective, Responsibility) were on the low side for each group (.50–.68 for whites, .43–.53 for blacks, .47–.62 for Hispanics across the 7 years). For the factor and PCA analysis, the results showed similarly that across race/ethnicity and time, one major factor emerged. The only eigenvalue over 1 for the factor analyses were found for whites at years 3, 5, 6, and 7. As was the case for the full sample analyses, the PCA showed clearer patterns, with one factor with an eigenvalue over 1 for each group at each year. For the six subcomponents, the alphas across year ranged from .63–.79 for whites, .61–.68 for blacks, and .64–.73 for Hispanics. Over the entire study, the alpha for the six components ranged from .76 for whites, .66 for blacks, and .73 for Hispanics. The PCA for the six components resulted in one factor with an eigenvalue over two for all years by race. For most years, there was an additional factor over 1 and for whites and Hispanics at baseline and blacks at year 4, there were three factors with eigenvalues over 1. The factor analysis resulted in one factor with an eigenvalue over 1 for each year/race/ethnicity. While there are some differences, particularly with respect to blacks having somewhat lower scores, there do not appear to be substantial operationalization concerns across race. Nevertheless, measurement differences by race should be a focus of future research.

  5. 5.

    Race/ethnicity is correlated with site. To ensure the results which control for site were robust, we re-ran the desistance models without this variable. The results are similar to those reported with site controlled.

  6. 6.

    All growth models were calculated with covariance unstructured specification; models calculated with independence covariance structure were similar.

  7. 7.

    Models with each component included together in each model were explored as well. For whites, all components were statistically significant except the between-individual responsibility and perspective effects. For blacks, the between individual responsibility effect switched signs and was statistically significant. There was a moderate correlation between temperance and responsibility between-individual variables; when the temperance variable was removed, the responsibility sign switched back to negative (but was not significant). This same model would not successfully converge for Hispanics. These models were unstable and should be considered exploratory.

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Authors’ Contributions

M.R. conceived of the study, drafted the manuscript and performed all statistical analyses; A.L.B. conceived of the study and participated in the drafting of the manuscript as well as creating the figure. A.R.P. contributed to the drafting of the manuscript.

Funding

There is no funding associated with this manuscript. The Pathways to Desistance Study data were funded by various groups, found here https://www.pathwaysstudy.pitt.edu/funders.html

Data Sharing and Declaration

This manuscript’s data are publicly available in the ICPSR repository (https://www.icpsr.umich.edu/icpsrweb/NAHDAP/studies/32282).

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Correspondence to Michael Rocque.

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Conflict of Interest

A.R.P. was an Investigator on the Pathways to Desistance Study from which the data for this study were drawn. The remaining authors declare no confict of interest.

Ethical Approval

The institutional review boards at all participating universities approved the original Pathways Study. The authors complied with Committee on Publication Ethics’ standards in the development of this manuscript.

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No identifiable information was obtained for the purposes of the current study. The Pathways to Desistance researchers obtained informed consent before collecting data on the subjects.

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Rocque, M., Beckley, A.L. & Piquero, A.R. Psychosocial Maturation, Race, and Desistance from Crime. J Youth Adolescence 48, 1403–1417 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-019-01029-8

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Keywords

  • Psychosocial maturation
  • Crime
  • Desistance