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Parenthood As A Turning Point In The Life Course For Male And Female Gang Members: A Study Of Within‐Individual Changes In Gang Membership And Criminal Behavior

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The impact of parenthood on leaving a street gang is not well understood. This is likely because researchers in prior studies have not accounted for multiple dimensions of gang exit, possible gender differences, and potential selection bias. In this study, we use a sample of 466 male and 163 female gang members from the National Longitudinal Study of Youth 1997 to consider the within‐individual relationship between changes in parenthood and changes in claiming gang membership and offending. These data offer the opportunity to consider gender differences and birth parity (i.e., first or second child). The results from a series of fixed‐effects models reveal that motherhood is associated with enduring reductions in both the odds of claiming gang membership and the rate of offending, whereas fatherhood has a temporary beneficial impact on gang membership and offending only for those fathers who reside with their children. In most cases, the beneficial effect of having a child rests in becoming a parent for the first time. On the whole, our study findings demonstrate that parenthood serves as a turning point for a particular group of noteworthy offenders—gang members.