TURNING POINTS IN LATE ADOLESCENCE: A STUDY OF HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATION AND ADULT OFFENDING IN A LIFE COURSE FRAMEWORK
MetadataShow full item record
Guided by the general theoretical paradigm of life course criminology, this study investigates the relationship between high school graduation and adult offending. This dissertation builds upon the idea of turning points in reducing offending behavior and extends this idea from adulthood to late adolescence/early adulthood, and considers high school graduation as a turning point in reducing adult offending behavior. This dissertation identifies the research gap on the high school graduation/dropout-delinquency relationship, that is, most previous studies could not reject the alternative hypothesis, i.e. not graduating from high school and adult offending can both be explained by prior processes. This dissertation investigates the causal relationship between high school graduation, as a turning point that opens up future opportunities, and early adult offending. After establishing a causal relationship between graduation and adult offending, this study further explores the mechanisms of the graduation effect. In particular, this study investigates whether and to what extent turning points in adulthood, i.e. employment and intimate relationships, mediate such a causal relationship. The sample used in this dissertation consists of 460 males from the data collected by Johns Hopkins Prevention Intervention Research Center (JHU PIRC). The analytical methods used in this study include propensity score matching, sensitivity analysis (to address selection bias due to possible omitted covariates), and mediation analysis. In terms of the causal relationship between graduation and offending, it was found that high school graduates are 93% less likely to have an adult offending record than dropouts similar on early processes. Such a finding is robust to selection bias due to possible omitted covariates. It was concluded that for those who are at great risk for dropping out, staying in school and finishing their education provides a turning point in reducing adult offending. In terms of the mechanisms of the graduation effect, it was found that post graduation experiences, employment in particular, help explain the graduate-dropout differences in offending during early adulthood. For dropouts, employment may be another turning point. Implications for life course criminology and policy are discussed.