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Maternal Attachment Trajectories and Criminal Offending By Race

Abstract

Parental attachment is a key predictor of juvenile offending. Most prior research on the topic, however, assumes that parental attachment is stable throughout youth and adolescence. On the contrary, recent research has established that parenting is a dynamic factor for many youth during adolescence. In the current study, we assess the relationship between trajectories of maternal attachment and offending during adolescence and young adulthood. Following a cohort of 859 youth from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth data aged 10 or 11 over a period of 6 years, we find four distinctive trajectories of maternal attachment and two distinctive trajectories of offending. The results suggest that changes that occur in maternal closeness are linked to changes in offending across adolescence. However, when young adult offending is assessed when the youth are 18 or 19 years of age, we find that adolescent maternal attachment trajectories are not significant predictors of offending.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    We focus on mothers in the current study due to the much lower response rate regarding the parenting of fathers in the data.

  2. 2.

    The specific BIC and posterior probability coefficients are available from the second author on request.

  3. 3.

    The specific BIC and posterior probability coefficients are available from the second author on request.

  4. 4.

    It must be noted that G5 for both racial categories shows a notable drop in maternal attachment at wave 4, despite the very high and stable trend in maternal attachment in the first three waves. As we discuss below, it is likely that this severe decrease in maternal attachment is likely due to the privileges and freedom such adolescents are affording near the end of adolescence. We, therefore, consider this group to show stable maternal attachment throughout adolescence, even with the substantial decrease in attachment in the last wave of the study.

  5. 5.

    Given that the data for this study captures parental closeness and offending during the same periods, we are unable to provide a causal analysis. That is, we are not able to disentangle whether parental shifts are causing the offending or if offending is causing the parental shifts. Thus, we are left with the ability to say that as parental closeness changes, offending appear to change as well.

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Correspondence to George E. Higgins.

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Schroeder, R.D., Higgins, G.E. & Mowen, T.J. Maternal Attachment Trajectories and Criminal Offending By Race. Am J Crim Just 39, 155–171 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12103-012-9192-0

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Keywords

  • Parenting
  • Maternal attachment
  • Offending
  • Crime
  • Trajectories