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Gendered Effects of Adult Social Bonds on the Criminal Activities of Probationers

NCJ Number
Criminal Justice Review Volume: 28 Issue: 2 Dated: Autumn 2003 Pages: 278-298
Spencer De Li; Doris Layton MacKenzie
Date Published
21 pages

This study examined whether the effects of adult social bonds on the criminal activities of probationers varied by gender.


A sample of 125 offenders who were beginning a sentence of probation were interviewed shortly after they began probation in 1 of 3 probation districts in northern Virginia. Of these, 107 were interviewed a second time approximately 6 months after the first interview. Data were obtained on demographic characteristics, arrest records, and preprobation criminal activities. Data pertained to three sets of variables: monthly measures recorded in the event calendars, individual-level measures that represented time-stable individual characteristics, and time variables that measured the period effects. The variables pertinent to the monthly level included illegal activities, deviant or risky lifestyles, and social bonds. A multilevel hierarchical regression model was used to assess within-individual changes in criminal behavior and other activities. Consistent with its hypothesis, the study found that social bonds, in the forms of living with a spouse, attending school, and having a job, affected male and female probationers in two distinct ways. Although the social-bond variables inhibited male crime, they increased female crime. The researchers attribute the differential effects of social bonds to the disparity in antisocial tendencies between men and women. For male probationers without strong connection to social relationships, an increase in social bonds may operate as a strong inhibitor of antisocial behavior. Female offenders, on the other hand, tend to have lower antisocial tendencies and more consistent connections to relationships. Thus, women may not respond as strongly as men to an increase in informal social control. Study limitations noted include the small sample and the low proportion of female offenders in the sample. 4 tables, 1 figure, and 59 references