Exploring the Transition to Parenthood as a Pathway to Desistance

  • Leslie AbellEmail author



While criminologists know a great deal about how marriage and employment affect criminal behavior, scholars remain equivocal about the relationship between the transition to parenthood and desistance. This study seeks to contribute to the literature by (1) exploring gender differences in the transition to parenthood; (2) exploring how women’s offending behavior varies across motherhood states (i.e., pregnancy); (3) assessing important contexts of the relationship between parenthood and desistance, such as timing, residency, and parental orientation; and (4) assessing whether these contexts work together as a “respectability package”.


I utilize data from The Pathways to Desistance Study, a longitudinal dataset of serious adolescent offenders, and fixed effects models to test whether the transition to parenthood is associated with periods of self-reported criminal desistance.


This study finds that a binary measure of parenthood is often insufficient for exploring the effects of parenthood. Rather, the contextual nature of parenthood, particularly the timing of transition, residence with a child, and being highly invested in parenthood, reduces one’s odds of offending. Additionally, these contexts work together as a parenthood respectability package. However, these results vary by gender and offense type.


The transition to parenthood, including both pregnancy and motherhood, seems to be an important factor for periods of temporary desistance among women, while the transition to fatherhood is associated with periods of aggressive offending desistance. The contexts of parenthood also work in gendered and offense-specific ways.


Life-course criminology Transition to parenthood Gender differences Desistance 



The author would like to thank Kristin Jordan and Lindsey Trimble O’Connor as well as three anonymous reviewers for their comments and feedback on earlier versions of this manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare they have no conflict of interest.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Sociology ProgramCalifornia State University Channel IslandsCamarilloUSA

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