chapter  8
Women’s re- incarceration: the influence of marriage and children
Pages 17

Introduction Research on desistance has grown substantially during the last decade and the findings from a number of studies suggest that family-life events like marriage and parenthood contribute to reductions in, and the termination of, offending (Bakken 2009; Bersani et al. 2009; Doherty and Ensminger 2013; Giordano et al. 2011; Laub and Sampson 2003; De Li and MacKenzie 2003; Pelissier et al. 2003; Sampson et al. 2006; Savolainen 2009; Zoutewelle-Terovan et al. 2012), especially when they are of high-quality (Laub et al. 1998; Sampson and Laub 1993) or occur together in a so-called “full family or respectability package” (Giordano et al. 2002; Savolainen 2009; Zoutewelle-Terovan et al. 2012). However, most studies of desistance are based on male offenders and there are reasons to believe that gender processes impact the influence of these life events on desistance. For example, it has been argued that marriage does not have the same influence on women as it has on men (Laub et al. 1998), because men marry “up” to prosocial women while women marry “down” to antisocial men. In addition, because women are more likely than men to have responsibilities for small children, parenthood might exert a bigger influence on females than on males (Siennick and Osgood 2008:176; Spjeldnes and Goodkind 2009). Women also have different victimization histories than men and this difference might affect their ability to take advantage of specific life events or “hooks for change” (Belknap 1996; Daly 1998; Giordano et al. 2002; O’Brien 2001; see also Spjeldnes and Goodkind 2009). Given the limited attention for the potentially crime-reducing effect of important events in the lives of serious female offenders, the purpose of the current study is to assess the influence of marriage and children on post-release outcomes for a large sample of serious female offenders. Using monthly data on re-incarceration, we examine how many female offenders are re-incarcerated after release and whether the often-found beneficial effects of marriage and children on crime also hold in the post-release context.