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The Relationship Context of Early Transitions to Parenthood: The Influence of Arrest

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Since many U.S. young adults who have had contact with the criminal justice system are parents, this study used the Toledo Adolescent Relationships Study (n = 1,321) to draw on family demography and criminology literatures in examining the association between arrest, an understudied indicator of contact with the criminal justice system, and transitions to early parenthood, while also distinguishing transitions to parenthood that occurred within four relationship contexts: (1) single; (2) dating; (3) cohabiting; and (4) married.


Using event history analyses, the study found that young men and women who experienced an arrest transitioned to parenthood earlier than their counterparts who were not arrested. Further, men with an arrest, compared to men who had not been arrested, were more likely to report that they were dating the biological mother of their first child around the time of birth. In contrast, women with an arrest had an increased likelihood of having their first birth while cohabiting with the biological father. These results highlight the importance of a prior arrest for early transitions to parenthood and are relevant for understanding the intergenerational transmission of disadvantage and the diverging destinies of children and parents. Furthermore, the gender differences in the results illustrated the importance of including women in criminal justice analyses and men in fertility analyses. (publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: January 1, 2020