THE EFFECTS OF SOCIAL TIES ON CRIME VARY BY CRIMINAL PROPENSITY: A LIFE-COURSE MODEL OF INTERDEPENDENCE*

Authors


  • *

    This research was supported by the National Consortium on Violence Research (NCOVR) and by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health (MH49414, MH45070, and MH56344), the University of Wisconsin Graduate School, and the Medical Research Council of the United Kingdom. NCOVR is supported under Grant SBR 9513040 from the National Science Foundation. The Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Research Unit is supported by the New Zealand Health Research Council. We are grateful to the Dunedin Unit investigators and staff and to the study members and their families. We thank David Weakliem, Chris Uggen, Dan Nagin, Rob Sampson, HonaLee Harrington, Colin Baier, Robert Bursik, and several anonymous reviewers for their input into this article.

  • Bradley R. Entner Wright is Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Connecticut, where he studies the social psychology of crime and deviance.

  • Avshalom Caspi is Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Wisconsin and in the Social, Genetic, and Developmental Psychiatry Research Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, University of London. His work focuses on personality development and psychopathology across the life course.

  • Terrie E. Moffitt is Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Wisconsin and in the Social, Genetic, and Developmental Psychiatry Research Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, University of London. She is also Associate Director of the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Research Unit at the University of Otago Medical School, Dunedin, New Zealand. Her work focuses on the developmental origins of antisocial behavior and on theoretical explanations of antisocial behavior across the life course.

  • Phil A. Silva is Director of the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Research Unit at the University of Otago Medical School, Dunedin, New Zealand.

Abstract

Previous studies have explained the transition from criminal propensity in youth to criminal behavior in adulthood with hypotheses of enduring criminal propensity, unique social causation, and cumulative social disadvantage. In this article we develop an additional hypothesis derived from the life-course concept of interdependence: The effects of social ties on crime vary as a function of individuals' propsensity for crime. We tested these four hypotheses with data from the Dunedin Study. In support of life-course interdependence, prosocial ties, such as education, employment, family ties, and partnerships, deterred crime, and antisocial ties, such as delinquent peers, promoted crime, most strongly among low self-control individuals. Our findings bear implications for theories and policies of crime.

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