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NCJ Number: 212812 Find in a Library
Title: Has Roe v. Wade Reduced U.S. Crime Rates?: Examining the Link Between Mothers' Pregnancy Intentions and Children's Later Involvement in Law-Violating Behavior
Journal: Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency  Volume:43  Issue:1  Dated:February 2006  Pages:36-66
Author(s): Carter Hay; Michelle M. Evans
Date Published: February 2006
Page Count: 31
Type: Report (Study/Research)
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This study tested Donohue and Levitt's basic premise that unwanted pregnancies result in children with significantly higher risk for law-violating behavior, which was the basis for their argument that the decrease in serious crime throughout the 1990s was linked to the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, which legalized the abortion of unwanted pregnancies.
Abstract: The findings showed that children of an unwanted or unplanned pregnancy had significantly higher delinquency rates when they were ages 11 to 17. This was true for general delinquency, status offenses, drug offenses, and serious offenses. By social science standards, the effects were moderate, however. Assuming that half of those born of an unwanted or unplanned pregnancy would be aborted in the post-Roe period, then Roe v. Wade had a modest effect on delinquency. Further, pregnancy intentions had no effect on crime reported during the period when respondents were ages 17 to 23; this was the case for both general and serious crime. The study methodology addressed the limitation in prior research by examining longitudinal data from a panel study of U.S. families and their children designed to obtain information on children's well-being (n=2,301). The sample included cases with information on pregnancy intentions (95 percent of respondents). The sample participated in the second and third wave of interviews, which permitted obtaining information on children's behavior during ages 11 to 17 and ages 17 to 23. The sample should be considered a national sample that overrepresented Blacks and children who were at-risk for behavioral and emotional problems due to their family circumstances. For the purposes of studying crime and delinquency, researchers considered this a desirable feature of the data. Pregnancy intentions were determined from mothers' recollections, and delinquent and criminal behavior was determined from self-reports of the children at both follow-ups. Five variables moderated the effects of unwanted pregnancies on delinquency: sex, race, the family's welfare status, the mother's marital status, and the mother's age when the child was born. The authors advise caution in reaching premature conclusions about the effects of legalized abortion on crime. 5 tables, 2 figures, 9 notes, 47 references, and appended items used to measure delinquency and crime
Main Term(s): Juvenile delinquency factors
Index Term(s): Abortion; Crime causes theory; Crime patterns; Minority crime causes; US Supreme Court decisions
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