Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Michael J. Leiber, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Ojmarrh Mitchell, Ph.D.

Committee Member

John K. Cochran, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Thomas A. Loughran, Ph.D.


age-graded theory of informal social control, ascetic deviance, multilevel mixed effects modeling, religion, secular deviance


Criminology’s most recent theoretical tradition involves examination of the developmental onset, continuity, and desistance from offending behavior across the life course. A prominent life course perspective organized around social bonding was proffered by Robert J. Sampson and John H. Laub in dual volumes that include Crime in the Making: Pathways and Turning Points Through Life (1993), and Shared Beginnings, Divergent Lives (2003). Because Sampson and Laub’s age-graded theory is based on a sample of White males born in the 1920s and 1930s, and matured during a historical period of vast economic growth, the universal theoretical processes emphasized in their theory may be overstated. Such assumptions may not generalize to more heterogeneous samples that includes minorities and individuals that vary in their levels of offending.

The present research evaluates the generalizability of the age-graded theory through examination of data collected from a representative and contemporary sample of adolescents followed into adulthood. In addition, this study seeks to examine an alternate turning point from deviant conduct, specifically religiosity/spirituality. Building on prior studies that explore the role of religiosity on change processes across race and ethnicity (Chu & Sung, 2009; Stansfield, 2017), the current investigation addresses open questions relating to the nature of the religion-desistance relationship.

Multilevel mixed effects models are utilized to estimate over time the separate impact of religious behavior and religious beliefs on deviant conduct, to further assess a religious turning point effect across subgroups disaggregated by race/ethnicity, and to evaluate the influence of religiosity on change from deviant outcomes characterized as violations of secular and ascetic standards. Analyses of religiosity/spirituality on these differing forms of deviance across race/ethnicity are also conducted.

In contrast to the hypothesized relationships, study findings reveal very little evidence of a religious/spiritual turning point effect in enacting change from deviant behaviors in the main models. Similar results indicate that religiosity indicates minimal differences in change from deviant conduct when the sample is disaggregated across race and ethnicity. Findings point to the nuances of the religion-desistance relationship, and depends upon processes that may involve attendance to church services or spiritual beliefs, and may be conditional on the type of deviance outcome examined—whether in violation of a secular or ascetic standard. Along with a discussion of these findings, limitations of the study, directions for future research, and implications for policy are provided.