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

Abstract

In the U.S., many young adults who have had contact with the criminal justice system are parents. Using the Toledo Adolescent Relationships Study (n = 1321), we drew on family demography and criminology literatures to examine the association between arrest, an understudied indicator of contact with the criminal justice system, and transitions to early parenthood. We also distinguished transitions to parenthood that occurred within four different relationship contexts: (1) single; (2) dating; (3) cohabiting; and (4) married. Using event history analyses, we 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. Our results highlighted 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.

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Fig. 1

Source Toledo adolescent relationships study

Fig. 2

Source Toledo adolescent relationships study

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Notes

  1. 1.

    As noted we focused only on pregnancies that lead to a first live birth. To obtain these cumulative estimates, we first computed age-specific probabilities of entering parenthood. The computations of these probabilities are based on the left-truncated person-months file; we then used these probabilities to estimate the cumulative proportions experiencing a pregnancy in the focal four contexts.

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Acknowledgements

This research received support from The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (HD036223 and HD044206), the Department of Health and Human Services (5APRPA006009), the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U. S. Department of Justice (Award Nos. 2009-IJ-CX-0503 and 2010-MU-MU-0031), and in part by the Center for Family and Demographic Research, Bowling Green State University, which has core funding from The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (P2CHD050959). The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication/program/exhibition are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official views of the National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services, or Department of Justice.

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Correspondence to Marissa Landeis.

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Landeis, M., Manning, W.D., Longmore, M.A. et al. The Relationship Context of Early Transitions to Parenthood: The Influence of Arrest. Popul Res Policy Rev (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11113-020-09597-5

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Keywords

  • Criminal justice contact
  • Arrest
  • Early parenthood
  • Family formation
  • Non-marital fertility