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Antisocial behavior in the transition to adulthood: The independent and interactive roles of developmental history and emerging developmental tasks



Although the turning points theory posits that the successful engagement of the romantic and work domains in young adulthood represents an important opportunity for disrupting antisocial pathways, others have recently speculated that such turning points may be most applicable to the majority of antisocial youth who begin offending in adolescence (Adolescence-Onset [AO]), rather than those who begin early in childhood and persist (Early-Onset/Persistent [EOP]). This study was designed (a) to attempt replication of recent evidence that AOs demonstrate problem behaviors intermediate to EOP and Never Antisocial youth in young adulthood, which was confirmed; and (b) to examine the correlates of lower levels of antisocial offending among AOs and EOPs in the transition to adulthood. As expected, AOs were more likely than EOPs to desist by age 23. Nonetheless, positive work and romantic involvement between the ages of 21 and 23 were significantly associated with less externalizing problems for EOPs, but not AOs. In addition, illicit substance use and deviant peer association proved to be associated with externalizing problems at age 23, irrespective of the patterning of young adults' antisocial behavior in childhood and adolescence. Results suggest that the unique opportunities available in the transition to adulthood may hold particular promise for youth with persistently troubled early histories.The authors acknowledge financial support for this research from the National Institutes of Mental Health to Byron Egeland, L. Alan Sroufe, and W. Andrew Collins (MH40864).


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Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Byron Egeland, Institute of Child Development, University of Minnesota, 51 East River Road, Minneapolis, MN 55455; E-mail:


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