We found that being married is associated with a significant reduction in the probability of crime, averaging approximately 35 percent across key models in both the full sample of nearly 500 men examined from ages 17 to 32 and the targeted subsample of 52 men assessed from ages 17 to 70. These basic findings were robust, and thus consistent with the notion that marriage causally inhibits crime over the life course.
Why is marriage important in the process of desistance from crime? Supported by a mix of theory and consistent narrative materials derived from in-depth interviews with the same men studied here (see Laub and Sampson, 2003), we have argued that marriage has the potential to “knife- off” the past from the present in the lives of disadvantaged men and lead to one or more of the following: opportunities for investment in new relationships that offer social support, growth, and new social networks; structured routines that center more on family life and less on unstructured time with peers; forms of direct and indirect supervision and monitoring of behavior; or situations that provide an opportunity for identity transformation and that allow for the emergence of a new self or script, what Hill (1971) described as the “movement from a hell raiser to a family man.”
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