THE TIMING AND MECHANISMS OF THE OFFENDING-DEPRESSION LINK*

Authors


  • *

    The author thanks D. Wayne Osgood, Michael Massoglia, Paul-Philippe Paré, Matt Schroeder, Eric Silver, Jeremy Staff, Criminology editor Denise Gottfredson, and three anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments. An earlier version of this research received second prize in the American Society of Criminology Gene Carte Student Paper Competition. This research uses data from Add Health, a program project designed by J. Richard Udry, Peter S. Bearman, and Kathleen Mullan Harris and funded by a grant (P01-HD31921) from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, with cooperative funding from 17 other agencies. Special acknowledgment is due Ronald R. Rindfuss and Barbara Entwisle for assistance in the original design. Persons interested in obtaining data files from Add Health should contact Add Health, Carolina Population Center, 123 W. Franklin Street, Chapel Hill, NC 27516-2524 (addhealth@unc.edu). Direct correspondence to Sonja E. Siennick, 211 Oswald Tower, Department of Sociology and Crime, Law, and Justice, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802 (e-mail: ses983@psu.edu).

Abstract

Why is juvenile delinquency associated with depression in young adulthood? One possibility is that delinquency interferes with socioeco-nomic attainment and disrupts entry into adult roles, perhaps because of official labeling processes or adolescent socialization into deviance, and these repercussions of delinquency lead to depression. Another possibility is that grown delinquents may show high levels of depression because they tend to offend in adulthood, and adult offenders tend to be depressed. I use data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health to examine the timing and mechanisms of the offending-depression relationship. The results suggest that delinquency is negatively associated with later status attainment and that the status attainment deficits of grown delinquents are not fully explained by justice system contacts or by adolescent delinquent peer influence. A portion of the longitudinal delinquency-depression link is explained by the low levels of education of grown delinquents and by their involvement with the justice system. Still, young adult depression is more closely tied to recent offending than it is to juvenile delinquency, official labeling, or the status attainment consequences of delinquency.

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