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Adv Life Course Res. 2016 Jun;28:6-21.

The impact of adolescent risk behavior on partner relationships.

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Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, University of Maryland, 2220 LeFrak Hall, College Park, MD 20742, United States.
Department of Sociology and Criminology & Law, University of Florida, P.O. Box 117330, Gainesville, FL 32611, United States.
Department of Criminal Justice, The University of Texas at San Antonio, 501 W. Cesar Chavez Blvd., San Antonio, TX 78207, United States.
Department of Criminal Justice and Forensic Science, Hamline University, 1536 Hewitt Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55104, United States.


Prior literature suggests that involvement in adolescent risk behaviors will have short- and long-term consequences that disrupt the orderly flow of later development, including impacts on patterns of partner relationships. In this study, we explore how adolescent involvement in delinquency, drug use, and sexual behavior at an early age affects the likelihood and timing of both marriage and cohabitation using a sample from the Rochester Youth Development Study. We also examine the direct effects of dropping out of high school, teenage parenthood, and financial stress during emerging adulthood as well as their potential role as mediators of the relationships between adolescent risk behaviors and partnering for both males and females. Overall, there is not very strong support for a direct relationship between adolescent delinquency, drug use, or early sexual behavior and patterns of partner formation. In contrast, the more proximal relationships, indicated by precocious transitions to adulthood and financial instability, are more consistently related to partner formation. These findings support models of cumulative disadvantage: early adolescent problem behaviors are weakly related to partner formation, but appear to set in motion cascading consequences that influence the transition to adulthood and, in turn, these more proximal variables are more consistently related to partner formation.


Adolescent antisocial behavior; Life-course criminology; Partner relationships; Precocious transitions

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