Incarceration and the life course: Predictors, correlates, and consequences of juvenile incarceration
Gilman, Amanda Beth
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The United States has the highest juvenile incarceration rate of any industrialized nation in the world. Research has shown that incarceration can have many iatrogenic effects on youth as they transition to adulthood. The goal of this dissertation is to understand the role that incarceration plays in development from childhood through early adulthood. This dissertation uses data from the Seattle Social Development Project (SSDP), a multiethnic gender-balanced community sample, to study incarceration in three separate but theoretically and methodologically linked analyses. Chapter 2 focuses on childhood predictors of police contact and incarceration using path analysis. Chapter 3 uses propensity score analysis and logistic regression to explore the long-term consequences of juvenile incarceration for adult functioning. Chapter 4 uses path analysis to test labeling theory, exploring the mechanisms mediating the relationship between juvenile incarceration and adult incarceration. Results show that one's position in the social structure and other childhood risk and protective factors are significantly related to incarceration in adolescence. Juvenile incarceration is significantly related to poor functioning in adulthood, including an increase in the likelihood of incarceration, alcohol abuse/dependence, and welfare receipt at ages 27-33. In support of one aspect of labeling theory, results show that the relationship between juvenile incarceration and adult incarceration is partially mediated by increased association with antisocial peers. One of the most significant findings is that the relationship between incarceration in adolescence and incarceration in adulthood remains highly significant even when controlling for multiple risk and protective factors, mediating mechanisms, and delinquent and criminal behavior. Juvenile incarceration is a sanction that appears to have life-long consequences for some youth. Furthermore, youth from disadvantage backgrounds, namely young men of color living in poverty, are significantly more likely to experience this sanction, thus potentially exacerbating their experiences of social disadvantage, and hindering their ability to successfully transition to adulthood. Policy and practice implications are discussed, including the need to reduce disproportionality and to find suitable alternatives to incarceration.