The Relation of Juvenile Delinquency and Adult Incarceration: Does Parental Incarceration Really Matter?

Phillips, Victoria, Clinical Psychology - Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Loper, Ann, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia

Adult criminals tend to have a history of juvenile delinquency and a family history of criminal activity. Prior to investigating these topics, measures capturing the correct information must prove reliable and valid. The Delinquency Scale on the National Longitudinal Adolescent Health Survey (Add Health) has face validity, but appears to cover a large array of delinquent behaviors. The Delinquency Scale can be divided into three factors which measure increasing severity of rule-violating behavior. These scales, Minor Transgressions, Transgressions for Personal Gain, and Violent Transgressions, have adequate reliability. Analyses demonstrated that the three factors that different types of juvenile delinquency and transgressions (Minor, For Personal Gain, and Violent) as measured by the Delinquency Scale can contribute to the prediction of adult incarceration, depending on which gender and factor is being used. The Minor Transgressions factor was not a significant predictor for either gender, whereas both Transgressions for Personal Gain and Violent Transgressions factors did significantly predict adult incarceration in different magnitudes for each gender.

Few studies have looked at a possible association between juvenile delinquency and parental incarceration and the effects of that association on adult incarceration. Some types of juvenile transgressions and a history of parental incarceration significantly contributed, independently, to the prediction of adult incarceration. The product, or interaction, of the two, however, was not significant. Parental incarceration appeared to contribute more to the prediction of adult incarceration than did juvenile delinquency. This suggests resources should be focused on the offspring of incarcerated parents in an effort to prevent juvenile delinquency or adult crimes before they occur.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
parental incarceration, juvenile delinquency, National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health
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