Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


School of Criminal Justice

Content Description

1 online resource (xii, 168 pages) : illustrations.

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Dana Peterson

Committee Members

David McDowall, Pamela Smock, Heather Washington


Adolescence, Delinquency, Family Instability, Life-course, Juvenile delinquents, Juvenile delinquency, Families, Family crises

Subject Categories

Criminology | Demography, Population, and Ecology | Sociology


“A family’s resources and the doors they open cast a long shadow over children’s life trajectories…This view is at odds with the popular ethos that we are makers of our own fortune.” (Alexander, Entwisle, & Olson, 2010, pg. 1). Perhaps no aspect about an individual’s life is not shaped in some way by their family. In fact, it could be surmised that families set the stage for all later outcomes in the life-course. An event in a family such as family instability could play an important role in shaping an individual’s behavior and outcomes in their life course. However, heterogeneity might exist among those that experience specific forms family instability. The dissertation utilizes a life-course theory lens to develop a theoretical framework for understanding whether and how family instability can influence delinquent behaviors. Expanding on what is already known, the dissertation is comprised of three parts. The first part of the dissertation will examine whether family instability or specific types of family instability influence specific delinquent turning point mechanisms. The second part will focus on whether family instability (or specific types of family instability) influences different forms of delinquency (general, property, and violent, delinquency, and substance use). Finally, the dissertation will examine whether family instability or specific forms of family instability indirectly influence different forms of delinquency and through the delinquent turning point mechanisms. To examine these relationships I will use self-reported student data collected as part of the second National Process and Outcome Evaluation of the Gang Resistance Education and Training program (G.R.E.A.T II).