Adolescence-Limited Versus Life-Course-Persistent: Individual, Academic, and School-Related Predictors of Offending
Methods: The current study used a merged state-level administrative data set containing educational, juvenile justice, and adult correctional information about 407,800 children enrolled in grades 7-12 in public schools in a state in the Deep South. The overall sample (N=14,348) was drawn from a 10-year cohort (1996-2008) of children who were identified as either adolescence-limited (n=10,126;70.5%) or life-course-persistent offenders (n=4,222;29.5%). Binary logistic regression (LR) was used to determine the combination of variables that best predicted the two distinct patterns of offending. Using the statistical software, STATA, two models were tested and predictors were entered in four blocks. Three demographic variables (gender, race, poverty status) were entered in the first block. The second block included four school discipline variables (in-school suspension, out-of-school suspension, in-school expulsion, out-of-school expulsion). The third block included academic engagement predictors (attendance, truancy, dropout, school transitions), and the final block included two academic performance predictors (highest grade completed, ELA standardized test score).
Results: The majority of adolescence-limited offenders were male (71.1%) and African American (60.0%), and considerably larger proportions of males (92.2%) and African Americans (69.5%) were life-course-persistent offenders. With regard to adolescence-limited offenders, LR results showed that the final model was statistically reliable in distinguishing between offenders having and not having only a juvenile record (-2 Log Likelihood=-40517.42;X2 = 13815.68,df = 15,p=.001). LR results indicated that the model predicting life-course-persistent offenders was statistically reliable in distinguishing between offenders having and not having both juvenile and adult offense records (-2 Log Likelihood = -18228.92;X2 = 10535.33, df = 15;p=.001). Wald statistics showed that all three demographic predictors, out-of-school expulsion, and highest grade completed predicted both patterns of offending. Poor academic performance predicted adolescence-limited, but not life-course-persistent offending. Odds ratios showed that males were twice as likely as females to have only a juvenile record, at Exp(B)=1.96; and nearly 10 times as likely to have both juvenile and adult records, Exp(B)=9.73. Odds ratios for expulsion indicated large changes in the likelihood of having either a juvenile record, only; or both juvenile and adult records, at Exp(B)=97.13 and 18.07, respectively. Students who were expelled were 97 times as likely to have juvenile records, and were 18 times as likely to have juvenile and adult records, as students who were never expelled.
Conclusions: Results underscore the importance of academic performance as a risk factor for children at risk of juvenile offending. Findings suggest that school-based interventions should be implemented to minimize expulsion. Additional research is needed to understand how school discipline practices influence the trajectories of boys and girls.