Risk for arrest: The role of social bonds in protecting foster youth making the transition to adulthood

Gretchen Ruth Cusick, Judy R. Havlicek, Mark E. Courtney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study examines a sample of foster youth at the onset of the transition to adulthood and explores how social bonds are related to the risk of arrest during adulthood. Drawing from official arrest records, event history models are used to examine the time to arrest. Because individuals may be at risk for different types of crime, competing risk regression models are used to distinguish among arrests for drug-related, nonviolent, or violent crimes. Between the ages of 17-18 and 24, 46% of former foster youth experience an arrest. Arrests were evenly distributed across drug, nonviolent, and violent crimes columns. Although findings fail to support the significance of social bonds to interpersonal domains, bonds to employment and education are associated with a lower risk for arrest. Child welfare policy and practice implications for building connections and protections around foster youth are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)19-31
Number of pages13
JournalAmerican Journal of Orthopsychiatry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Aging out of foster care
  • Crime
  • Foster youth
  • Risk for arrest
  • Social bonding theory
  • Social bonds
  • Transition to adulthood

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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