Date of Award

2018

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Department

Criminology and Criminal Justice

First Advisor

Robert Brame

Second Advisor

Christi Metcalfe

Abstract

The knowledge about the relationship between changes in both religiosity and crime over time remains limited. This dissertation aims to add to the existing body of literature and fill the gaps in prior studies by examining the religiosity-crime relationship in a sample of adjudicated adolescents studied in the Pathways to Desistance Study, a seven-year longitudinal dataset. Using Group-Based Trajectory Models and Growth Curve Models, this dissertation identifies distinctive trajectories of religious attendance, religious importance, and spirituality and their dynamic relationships with changes in different types of substance use and criminal behavior. Given the initial level of substance use and criminal behavior, the results show that offenders with higher religiosity have a lower likelihood of engaging in substance use and criminal behavior than those who are less religious or nonreligious, regardless of dimensions of religiosity. With respect to changes in religiosity, not all trajectory groups of religious attendance, religious importance, and spirituality are significantly associated with each type of substance use and criminal behavior. It is not very clear which dimensions of changing religiosity are more strongly associated with which types of changing crime and deviance. For those significant dynamic relationships, the results generally indicate that gains in religiosity continue to attenuate the risk of substance use and criminal behavior, while losses in religiosity are associated with elevated risk of substance use and criminal behavior. In addition, the findings regarding these relationships are consistent despite the confounding variables controlled. The results suggest that religiosity may be an important variable in predicting the trajectory of substance use and criminal behavior from adolescence to young adulthood, and may serve as a protective factor assisting serious offenders to desist from crime. Strengthening, emphasizing, and reinforcing different elements of religiosity may increase the chances that religiosity becomes a prosocial turning point in the lives of serious offenders. Religiosity may be an important resource for prevention of drug abuse and criminal behavior, as well as rehabilitation from drug dependence and recidivism.

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