Desistance from delinquency: The marriage effect revisited and extended

Kevin M. Beaver, John Paul Wright, Matt DeLisi, Michael G. Vaughn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

83 Citations (Scopus)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)736-752
Number of pages17
JournalSocial Science Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2008 Sept

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research uses data from Add Health, a program project designed by J. Richard Udry, Peter S. Bearman, and Kathleen Mullan Harris, and funded by a Grant P01-HD31921 from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, with co-operative funding from 17 other agencies. Special acknowledgment is due to Ronald R. Rindfuss and Barbara Entwisle for assistance in the original design. Persons interested in obtaining data files from Add Health should contact, Add Health, Carolina Population Center, 123 W. Franklin Street, Chapel Hill, NC 27516-2524, USA ( ).

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science


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