Delinquent and Criminal Behaviors of Parents and Their Adolescent Children:  A Prospective Intergenerational Study of Children of Former Juvenile Offenders

Project: Research project

Project Details


Nearly every longitudinal study of delinquency has found that a parent’s involvement in delinquent and criminal behavior is a critical risk factor for delinquency in their children. Yet, risk does not convey certainty: Some children exhibit intergenerational resilience and do not engage in delinquent behaviors. With the exception of the Glueck and Glueck study – conducted in the 1940s – prior studies sampled from schools or households, thereby excluding correctional populations. Thus, we have the least information on persons who would likely have the worst outcomes. No prospective intergenerational study of delinquency has focused on a particularly high-risk group: children of former juvenile offenders. We will address this omission using data collected on participants in the Northwestern Juvenile Project (sampled at intake to juvenile detention and interviewed 14 times over 16 years; current median age, 38 years) and their children, ages 10-17 years, who are participating in our new study, Next Generation. Funded by NIJ and NIH, Next Generation includes some variables on delinquent behaviors, but was not designed to examine intergenerational patterns of delinquency. We will (1) leverage data collected in the Northwestern Juvenile Project and Next Generation; (2) augment variables on delinquency; and (3) expand the current sample of children (n=544) to include siblings (n=165); total N would be 709 children. We have 3 goals: (1) to examine patterns of delinquent behaviors in children (G2) of former juvenile offenders (G1); (2) to examine intergenerational patterns of delinquency; and (3) to predict resilience by examining individual differences in delinquency within families (siblings) and between families. The proposed study will be the first prospective intergenerational study of delinquency in children of former juvenile offenders, and has several key features: (1) enough parents have engaged in serious offenses to examine how trajectories of their delinquent behavior affect those of their children; (2) we have detailed prospective data on the parents’ criminal careers, collected since their adolescence; thus we can examine how the parent’s criminal behavior before and after their child’s birth affect intergenerational transmission; (3) by studying individual-, family-, peer-, and community-level variables, we can identify malleable protective factors that increase resilience among children who face the greatest risk. The investigation will provide data responding to the National Institute of Justice’s call for longitudinal research on delinquency and crime, and support the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act in their goal to create evidence-based programs that address the needs of at-risk youth.
Effective start/end date5/1/204/30/25


  • National Institute of Justice (2020-MU-MU-0001)


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