Educational Consequences of Early Crime and Punishment: Testing a Genetically Informed Life Course Model Using the Add Health Data

Hexuan Liu , University of Cincinnati
Ryan Motz, University of Cincinnati
Peter Tanksley, University of Cincinnati
J. C. Barnes, University of Cincinnati
Kathleen Mullan Harris, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

In this study, we develop a life-course model to investigate the complex relationships among genetic inheritance, criminal justice (CJ) involvement, and educational outcomes. To test the model, we use whole-genome data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health to conduct an analysis based on the most powerful polygenic score constructed to date for educational attainment. We find that participants with higher polygenic scores for educational attainment were significantly less likely to report CJ involvement during their adolescence. We then show the genetic association with the risk of CJ involvement is attributable to a range of individual and social factors, particularly experiences at school. Finally, we find evidence that adolescent CJ involvement mediates the associations between the education polygenic score and participants’ educational outcomes in adulthood. Findings in this study also provide important insights to assess the effect of genetic confounding in research of causal relationships between CJ involvement and later-in-life outcomes.

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 Presented in Session 2. Children & Youth