Anticipating the “Ball and Chain”? Reciprocal Associations Between Marital Expectations and Delinquency

Rachel Arocho, Claire M. Kamp Dush

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Marriage has been identified as a mechanism that may explain decreased delinquency among young adults, but whereas marriage is increasingly delayed, crime continues to decrease across the transition to adulthood. Most adolescents and young adults expect to marry one day, and these expectations may suppress delinquency. Conversely, increased delinquency may also predict decreased marital expectations. Longitudinal data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 cohort (N = 7,057), a sample of youth who were aged 12 to 17 years in 1997, were used to examine the reciprocal association between an expressed expectation to marry soon and participation in delinquent behavior. Results from an autoregressive cross-lagged structural equation model suggested that greater expectations to marry were significantly associated with less delinquent activity 1 year later. Greater delinquent activity was not significantly associated with subsequent marital expectations. Youth with the greatest expectations to marry may temper their behavior even before vows are taken.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1371-1381
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Marriage and Family
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • crime and delinquency
  • marriage
  • National Longitudinal Study of Youth (NLSY)
  • youth/emergent adulthood


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