Romantic Partner Influences on Girls' Continuity of Offering across Adolescence and Adulthood

Oudekerk, Barbara A., Department of Psychology, University of Virginia
Reppucci, Dickon, Department of Psychology, University of Virginia

This dissertation analyzes data from the Gender and Aggression Project, a longitudinal study of incarcerated girls, to examine whether dating offending partners is associated with high-risk girls' continuity of offending across the transition from adolescence to early adulthood. In study one, we examined girls' offending continuity. Results revealed significant continuity in girls' non-violent offending between adolescence and adulthood, but not violent offending. To identify the best measure of offending, we compared the longitudinal constructs of self-reported frequency, diversity, and severity-weighted offending scores assessed over a reference period of six months and "ever" between interviews. For assessments of total, violent, and non-violent crime, different measures of offending were significantly correlated across reference periods and scoring methods. However, diversity scores emerged as a stronger and more consistent predictor of future non-violent offending than did frequency scores. Results provide evidence in support of the widely endorsed method of analyzing diversity scores over frequency scores. In study two, we tested whether girls' continuity in offending across mid adolescence and early adulthood is explained by (i.e., mediated by) or dependent upon (i.e., moderated by) their romantic partners involvement in delinquent behavior. We also examined whether partner influences on criminal behavior persist after accounting for peer influences. Contrary to our hypothesis, experiences within romantic relationships were not significantly associated with non-violent offending trajectories. However, as iii expected based on social control theory, there was significant support for conceptualizing partner delinquency as a moderator (but not mediator) of girls' continuity of violent offending. Girls who dated offending partners experienced significant continuity in violent offending between adolescence and adulthood, but those who dated nonoffending partners did not. In addition, within adulthood, the longer women had been romantically involved with their partner the less likely they were to engage in violence. Results held even after controlling for concurrent peer influences. In fact, girls' continuity of violence was only dependent on partner delinquency, not peer delinquency. Results underscore the need for juvenile justice intervention programs targeting offending girls to focus on the formation and maintenance of healthy romantic relationships.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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