The Effect of Family Structure and Family Processes on Young Adult Criminal Behavior

Littisha Scott, Arizona State University

There is much debate in the current literature about the influence of family structure on adolescent’s behavioral outcomes. Researchers frequently focus on the difference between two-parent families and single-parent families, primarily single-mother families. Using data from Waves I and III of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, I extend prior literature by analyzing the effect of an array of family forms on young adult’s criminal behavior, specifically self-reports of theft and violence. The analyses demonstrates that family processes, including closeness to parents, internalized control and parental monitoring, unmask the relationship between family structure and young adult’s criminal behavior. Family structure becomes a significant predictor of violent delinquency only when these family processes are taken into account. Adolescents’ closeness to parents and parental monitoring decreases the amount of young adult theft and violence. Internalized control has no effect on violence. Parental supervision is not a significant predictor theft or violence.

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Presented in Session 171: Adolescent Events and Circumstances and the Transition to Adulthood