The Influence of Family and Religious Characteristics on Trajectories of Delinquent Behavior from Adolescence to Young Adulthood

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Using data from the NLSY79, this study takes a life-course approach to examine whether family and religious characteristics influence individual-level trajectories of delinquent behavior from early adolescence through young adulthood. Results suggest that residing with two parents deters youth from becoming delinquent, and supportive parenting practices reduce the likelihood of becoming involved in delinquent behavior early in adolescence. There is also evidence that family and religion interact to predict trajectories of delinquency. Religion seems to enhance the effect of parental affection in deterring delinquent behavior as well as mitigate the increased risk of high levels of delinquent behavior among youth in single-parent families. Moreover, the findings indicate that trajectories of delinquency are not immutable; family transitions are associated with increases in delinquency, but religious participation throughout adolescence and marriage are associated with declines in delinquent behavior. Overall, results suggest that family and religious characteristics continually influence the extent to which youth commit delinquent acts.