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Soc Sci Res. 2008 Sep;37(3):736-52.

Desistance from delinquency: the marriage effect revisited and extended.

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  • 1College of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Florida State University, 634 West Call Street, Tallahassee, FL 32306-1127, USA.


Desistance from criminal offending has become the source of a considerable amount of research attention. Much of this literature has examined how environmental factors, such as marriage, employment, and delinquent peers contribute to the desistance process. A relatively unexplored possibility, however, is that desistance from criminal behavior is partially due to genetic factors. To test this possibility, data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) were used to examine the effects that five different genetic polymorphisms (DAT1, DRD2, DRD4, 5HTT, and MAOA) have on desistance from delinquent involvement. Three broad findings emerged. First, marriage significantly increased desistance. Second, some of the genetic polymorphisms had significant independent effects on desistance. Third, for males, the genetic polymorphisms interacted with marital status to predict variation in desistance. The findings underscore the importance of using a biosocial perspective to examine factors related to criminal desistance.

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