Trajectories of offending among African American adolescents
Morris, Sara Zane
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The current study focuses on trajectories of offending among African Americans from childhood through late adolescence. Using life-course theory as a guide, there are two main goals. The first is to describe the number and type of trajectories of delinquency separately for males and females, as much research in the past on trajectories has focused on white and/or male samples. The second goal is to investigate both early childhood characteristics and cumulative disadvantages, both in the form of potential “turning points” such as experiencing a family transition and victimization and cumulative experiences of stressors such as racial discrimination, and their effects on pathways of delinquent behaviors. Results indicated that there were four distinct groups of offenders among both males and females, but there were important differences between the two gender samples in patterns of offending. Males displayed higher levels of delinquency at each time point, and the pattern over time for one trajectory group in particular was different for the male vs. female sample. In addition, a number of factors were important in predicting patterns of delinquency over time. For both genders, delinquent friends and racial discrimination positively predicted delinquency. For males these effects were slightly stronger. Within the female sample, levels of authoritative parenting and excelling in school also significantly predicted trajectory group membership. The results represent a contribution to developmental research in criminology, and directions for future research stemming from this project are also discussed.