Author: Arna L. Carlock
According to life history theory, adolescents with a dangerous or unpredictable childhood environment engage in risky behaviors because they believe the future is uncertain and an immediate payoff is weighed more heavily than potential negative consequences.
Many adolescents embody this “live fast, die young” mentality, particularly those already at risk of delinquency due to other factors.
Despite the indication that anticipated early death (AED) is a crucial correlate of delinquent activity, only recently have criminologists begun to directly examine this concept.
The purpose of this study is to determine the effects of AED on violent delinquency and gang activity throughout adolescence.
The goals of the study were to:
• Operationalize a quantifiable measure of AED.
• Examine the impacts of AED on individual violence and gang activity.
• Determine whether AED causes risk-taking behaviors (i.e., violence and gang activity), or if the reverse is true.
The study found that low self-esteem, depression, low attachment to parents, and poor connection with school are all strongly related to AED and should be addressed in order to reduce or prevent AED in individuals. The study suggests that strengthening child-parent attachment and enhancing students’ sense of connection with their schools should reduce both AED and delinquency by improving the youth’s bond to society, investment in conventional values, and aspirations for achievement.
The study also found that adolescent violent behavior is substantially influenced by AED, low self-control, and AED via low self-control. Additionally, the total effect of AED on violence is significant. The influence of low self-control on gang membership remains strong and significant throughout adolescence. This indicates that AED is a causal factor in gang membership.
The author acknowledges that the study fails to account for risk-taking by people who might not be driven by reproductive urges. In addition the author suggest analysis of rationality and decision-making processes would help to better understand the interplay between AED and risk-taking behaviors.
Greater knowledge about the causes and consequences of AED through future research will aid criminal justice agencies in delinquency prevention and intervention efforts.