Criminologists have directed significant theoretical and empirical attention toward the institution of marriage over the past two decades. Importantly, the momentum guiding this line of research has increased despite the fact that people are getting married far less often and much later in the life course than in any point in American history. The aim of this dissertation is to address this disconnect by focusing attention to nonmarital romantic relationships and their instability during emerging adulthood. To do so, it uses data from the Pathways to Desistance Study, a longitudinal study of 1,354 at-risk males and females who were adjudicated from the juvenile and adult systems in Phoenix and Philadelphia between 2000 and 2003. The project focuses attention to the following issues: (1) the effect of romantic dissolution on aggressive and income-based offenses; (2) the extent to which strain
egative emotionality and peer influence/exposure account for the effect of romantic dissolution on crime; and (3) the extent to which certain relationship and individual circumstances moderate the effect of romantic dissolution. The models reveal a few key findings. First, romantic dissolution is strongly related to an increase in both aggressive and income-based crime, but is more strongly related to income-based crime. Second, the effect of romantic dissolution is reduced when measures of strain
egative emotionality and peer influence/exposure measures are added to models, but the peer influence/exposure measures account for the strongest reduction. Finally, romantic dissolution does not serve as a positive life event among these at-risk youth, but its effect is exacerbated under a number of contexts (e.g. when an individual is unemployed). This study closes with a summary of these findings as well as its key limitations, and offers insight into potential policy implications and avenues of future research.