The Contingent Effects of Fatherhood on Offending

Abstract

A growing body of research assesses the relationship between fatherhood and desistance. Qualitative studies typically find fatherhood reduces offending, especially substance use; yet, quantitative studies have produced mixed findings. Guided by life-course theory, this study hypothesizes that fatherhood affects certain kinds of offending and fatherhood’s effects on offending are most pronounced among fathers who reside with their child. To test our hypotheses, NLSY97 data are employed along with fixed-effects regression analyses to estimate the relationship between fatherhood and offending, while controlling for time-varying and time-stable competing factors. Periods of fatherhood are associated with reductions in licit and illicit substance use but not other kinds of offending, and these effects are considerably stronger in periods in which fathers resided in the same household as their child. By contrast, residential fatherhood is associated with reductions in property offending and arrest. These results confirm the findings of qualitative research in that fatherhood, particularly residential fatherhood, reduces substance use but has weaker effects on other kinds of deviance.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    We note that there are other ways to measure fathers’ involvement with and attachment to their children. Here we focus on residential fatherhood status. We encourage future researchers to explore these alternative measures.

  2. 2.

    We use weighted analyses to adjust for the minority oversample, where appropriate (see Winship & Radbill, 1994).

  3. 3.

    The number of respondents omitted from the fixed-effects regressions, due to of a lack of within individual variation, ranges from a low of 662 for alcohol use to a high of 3382 for hard drug use.

  4. 4.

    Table 2 displays the racial/ethnic composition of the sample to demonstrate the diversity of the sample. This variable, however, cannot be included in the fixed-effects regression models because one’s race/ethnicity does not change over time.

  5. 5.

    Table 2 reports highest grade completed, instead of in-school status, because relatively few respondents reported being in school in round 13. By contrast, the multivariate models use in-school status as a predictor.

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Correspondence to Ojmarrh Mitchell.

Appendix

Appendix

Table 5 Number of respondents with valid responses by round and outcome
Table 6 The effect of fatherhood on number of times used hard drugs: unstandardized negative binomial regression
Table 7 The effect of fatherhood on days used alcohol, past month: unstandardized negative binomial regression
Table 8 The effect of fatherhood on number of property offenses: unstandardized negative binomial regression
Table 9 The effect of fatherhood on number of assaults: unstandardized negative binomial regression
Table 10 The effect of fatherhood on number of arrests: unstandardized negative binomial regression

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Mitchell, O., Landers, M. & Morales, M. The Contingent Effects of Fatherhood on Offending. Am J Crim Just 43, 603–626 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12103-017-9418-2

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Keywords

  • Life-course criminology
  • Fatherhood
  • Parenthood
  • Substance use
  • Desistance