RACIAL DISCRIMINATION, RACIAL SOCIALIZATION, AND CRIME OVER TIME:
A SOCIAL SCHEMATIC THEORY MODEL*
CALLIE H. BURT
University of Washington
MAN KIT LEI
University of Georgia
RONALD L. SIMONS
University of Georgia
Please cite as: Burt, Callie H., Man Kit Lei, Ronald L. Simons. 2017. Racial discrimination, racial socialization,
and crime over time: A social schematic theory model. Criminology 55(4): 938-979.
Running Head: RACIALIZED EXPERIENCES AND CRIME OVER TIME
Word Count: Lots of words.
* The authors thank Eric Baumer and anonymous reviewers at Criminology for their careful review and valuable
comments. The paper has been significantly improved based on their insights. Additionally, the authors are grateful to
Kara Hannula, Ross Matsueda, Stew Tolnay, and Bob Crutchfield for generously providing review and feedback.
Earlier versions of this paper were presented at the 2015 annual meeting of the American Society of Criminology in
Washington, DC, and the 2016 ASA meetings in Seattle, WA. This research was supported by an NIJ Du Bois
Fellowship (2013-IJ-CX-0022) to the first author, who conceived of the study, prepared the data, conducted analyses,
wrote the manuscript, and performed revisions. Karlo Lei contributed data analyses, and Ron Simons provided data
from the FACHS, a project designed by Ron Simons, Frederick Gibbons, and Carolyn Cutrona, and funded by grants
from the National Institute of Mental Health (MH48165, MH62669), the Center for Disease Control (029136-02), the
National Institute on Drug Abuse (DA021898), and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Direct all
correspondence to Callie Burt, Department of Sociology, University of Washington, 211 Savery Hall Box 353340,
Seattle, WA 98195-3340. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. !
RACIAL DISCRIMINATION, RACIAL SOCIALIZATION, AND CRIME OVER TIME:
A SOCIAL SCHEMATIC THEORY MODEL
Recent studies evince that interpersonal racial discrimination (IRD) increases the risk of crime among African
Americans, and familial racial socialization fosters resilience to discrimination’s criminogenic effects. Yet, studies have
focused on the short-term effects of IRD and racial socialization largely among adolescents. This study seeks to advance
knowledge by elucidating how racialized experiences—in interactions and socialization—influence crime for African
Americans over time. Elaborating Simons and Burt’s (2011) social schematic theory, we trace the effects of childhood
IRD and familial racial socialization on adult offending through cognitive and social pathways and their interplay. We
test this life-course SST model using data from the FACHS, a multisite study of black youth and their families from ages
10 to 25. Consistent with the model, analyses reveal that the criminogenic consequences of childhood IRD are
mediated cognitively by a criminogenic knowledge structure and socially through the nature of social relationships in
concert with ongoing offending and discrimination experiences. Specifically, by increasing criminogenic cognitive
schemas, IRD decreases embeddedness in supportive romantic, educational, and employment relations, which
influence social schemas and later crime. Consonant with expectations, findings also indicate that racial socialization
provides enduring resilience by both compensating for and buffering discrimination’s criminogenic effects.
Keywords: Crime; Racial Discrimination; Racial Socialization; Life-Course; Social Schemas; Social Schematic
Racial disparities in street crime have long been a focus of criminological scholarship. Although differences are vastly
magnified by biases in the criminal justice system (Tonry 1995; Spohn 2015), evidence from a range of sources indicates that
African Americans engage in higher rates of street crime than do whites (e.g., Elliott 1994; Hawkins et al. 2000; Piquero &
Brame 2008).1 Following the classic works of Sampson (1987), Sampson and Wilson (1995), and Massey and Denton (1993)
among others (e.g. Krivo & Peterson 2000; Hawkins 1983), macro-level structural explanations have dominated research on
race and crime. These approaches examine racial disparities in offending from contextual lenses, focusing on variations in
crime across communities that vary in ethnic-racial composition and levels of inequality. Here, race is a “marker for the
constellation of social contexts” in which individuals are embedded (Sampson & Bean 2006:8).
In more recent years, scholars have pointed to situational stratification and the need to compliment macro-level
explanations with a consideration of the way that racial stratification is instantiated in micro-level interactional processes
(e.g., Bruce, Roscigno, & McCall 1998; Burt et al. 2012; Kaufman et al. 2008). This approach highlights the role of different
“kinds of situations” faced by racial minorities, specifically the experience of inequality in social interaction, and how these
stratified interactions shape development and patterns of offending. Adopting this perspective, scholars have pointed to
interpersonal racial discrimination (IRD)—the blatant, subtle, and covert actions, verbal messages, or signals that are
supported by racism and malign, mistreat, or otherwise harm racial minorities (Essed 1991; Feagin 1991)—as a situational
mechanism of stratification and a risk factor for crime (Burt et al. 2012). Over the past decade, more than fifteen studies
have investigated this topic, and without exception, show that IRD increases the risk of offending among racial minority
youth (e.g., Burt & Simons 2015; Simons et al. 2006; Martin et al. 2011; Unnever et al. 2009) and, as a pernicious risk
factor unique to racial minorities, contributes to racial disparities in offending.
Despite compelling evidence that IRD persists and is criminogenic, research has largely focused on the short-term
effects of IRD on offending, invariably among adolescents. Consequently, there is a gap in our understanding of the longer-
term effects of IRD on offending among African Americans. Addressing this lacuna, the present study seeks to advance
knowledge by exploring whether and how IRD’s criminogenic effects endure by adopting a life-course approach, which
highlights mechanisms that sustain continuity and allow for change. Specifically, we consider the individual mechanisms and
social pathways through which the criminogenic effects of IRD persist, recognizing that change, as adaptation to social
1 In noting the evidence that blacks engage in higher rates of street crime than whites, we do not imply that general crime or its harmful
effects are greater for blacks compared to whites. It is certainly the that by focusing on street crimes racial disparities are magnified
(Reiman 1979; Young 2006). We use the term crime throughout the article, but readers should note that our focus is on street crimes.
conditions that are influenced but not determined by individual characteristics, is constant. Our goal is to conceptually trace
the criminogenic effects of IRD experienced in childhood and adolescence on development in ways that influence the
likelihood of later offending, highlighting both social and cognitive developmental pathways and their interplay in concert
with ongoing offending and racial discrimination. In so doing, the present study extends Simons and Burt’s (2011) social
schematic theory of crime and draws upon key ideas from life-course and developmental theories to delineate a life-course
model of IRD and crime.2 We explore the effects of discrimination through criminogenic social schemas on three salient age-
graded relationships and ties: romantic relationships, education, and employment. Our main thesis is that IRD’s
criminogenic effects endure cognitively through criminogenic social schemas and socially through its effects on the nature of
relationships and institutional involvements across the life course. Individuals with highly criminogenic schemas, in part as a
function of their discrimination experiences, are less likely to be embedded in supportive social relationships and fields due
to processes of interactional and cumulative continuity (e.g., Caspi et al. 1989; Matsueda & Heimer 1997; Sampson & Laub
1993). These dynamic processes, in turn, not only probabilistically increase the likelihood of crime, but also maintain, if not
augment, criminogenic social schemas.
In addition, building on research that takes a strength approach to African American families and cultures to
understand resilience to racial discrimination, we consider the protective effects of familial racial socialization—explicit or
tacit messages that family members communicate to children about their racial cultural heritage and history, the realties of
racism, and how to cope with racism effectively (e.g., Hughes et al. 2006; Peters 1985; Stevenson 2003). Recent work
shows that two forms of racial socialization—preparation for bias and cultural socialization—compensate for and buffer the
criminogenic effects of discrimination in adolescence (Burt et al. 2012; Burt & Simons 2015). We extend this work by
examining whether familial cultural socialization and preparation for bias have lasting protective effects. Specifically, we test
whether these two proactive and protective forms of racial socialization reduce the enduring negative effects of
discrimination on crime in part by counteracting and weakening the effect of racial discrimination on criminogenic cognitive
schemas and involvement in supportive relationships and institutions in emerging adulthood.
To test our hypotheses, we utilize data from the Family and Community Health Study (FACHS). The FACHS is a
2 To be clear, this model is an initial (and incomplete) life-course elaboration of SST. Although, as one reviewer correctly noted, the
presented SST model does not provide a full explanation of continuity and change in offending over time, we believe that this
longitudinal elaboration of SST is appropriately characterized as a life-course model given that we adopt the principle foci as well as
central tenets of the life-course approach, including the emphasis on explaining within-individual stability and change, the principle of
life-long openness, and the social basis of change and continuity through successive phases of life (Elder 1985; Sampson & Laub 2005).
comprehensive panel study of African Americans families from a variety of settings and includes respondents from a range of
socioeconomic situations from the very poor to the upper middle class. With its developmental focus, these data are
particularly well suited for examining the pathways through which racial discrimination influences offending.
INTERPERSONAL RACIAL DISCRIMINATION AND CRIME
As noted, recent research on racial disparities in street crime has taken a micro-level turn, translating racial stratification to
the situational level and highlighting the criminogenic effects of discriminatory interactions (e.g., Burt et al. 2012; Unnever
& Gabbidon 2011). Focusing on African Americans, more than a dozen recent studies evince that IRD increases the risk of
offending, including self-reported violence (Caldwell et al. 2004; Simons et al. 2006; Stewart & Simons 2006), delinquency
(Martin et al. 2011; Unnever et al. 2009; 2016), and crime (Burt et al. 2012) as well as official reports of arrest (McCord &
Ensminger 1997, 2003). A number of different measures of IRD are used, but all ask respondents to report whether they
have experienced one or more negative acts because, from their perspective, they are black or African American.3 More
recently, scholarship has moved beyond documenting a link between IRD and an increased risk of offending to focus on the
underlying mechanisms through which IRD augments the risk of later offending (e.g., Burt et al. 2012; Unnever & Gabbidon
2011). The challenge is explaining how discrimination increases the risk of general offending, not limited to immediate
backlash against the perpetrator(s). Building on several recent works, the present study links racial discrimination to crime
through a recently developed social schematic theory of offending.
The social schematic theory of crime (SST; see Simons & Burt 2011; Simons et al. 2014) is an integrative learning
theory that elucidates the social psychological processes through which social context and interactions influence individual
differences in propensities to offend. Rather than being good, bad, or empty vessels into which society pours its views of
morality, SST starts from the assumption that we are born with the wiring to adapt our orientations to the world to fit our
environments in response to variation in environmental harshness and unpredictability. Humans have evolved to survive—
not to thrive (especially in any Western cultural sense)—in the contexts in which they find themselves, and risky, reckless,
and even criminal behavior can be incited by such adaptations (Simons et al. 2014).
As a learning theory, SST prioritizes the (often subtle) lessons and principles inherent in discriminatory interactions
that are internalized and carried forth over time in the form of social schemas, or cognitive representations of the patterns in
3 Consistent with prevailing practices, we use African American and black interchangeably, even as we recognize that in addition to being
amorphous categories, not all African Americans identify as “black,” and not all who self identify as “black” identify as African American.
social interaction that influence future behavior by specifying the import and meaning of various social stimuli and the
probable consequences of various lines of action (see Crick & Dodge 1994). The theory proposes that unpredictable, harsh,
and unfair social situations, such as IRD, increase individuals’ propensities to crime because they foster the lessons that
delayed rewards rarely materialize; the world is a hostile, unpredictable place; and social rules and punishments do not apply
equally to everyone (Burt et al. 2012; Burt & Simons 2015). These lessons correspond to three key criminogenic social
schemas, or schemas that increase the likelihood that situations are defined as justifying or excusing law violation, including
impulsivity or immediate gratification, hostile views of relationships, and disengagement from conventional norms. Because
these schemas are rooted in the same set of social conditions, which communicate similar lessons about the world, Simons
and Burt (2011) contend these three schemas coalesce into a higher-order criminogenic knowledge structure (CKS) that operates
as dynamic unity in making situational definitions legitimating crime more likely and, therefore, increases the likelihood of
offending. Previous research supports this contention (e.g., Simons & Burt 2011; Simons et al. 2014).
Focusing explicitly on discrimination, several studies have linked IRD to offending through one or more of the
schemas in the CKS (e.g., Simons et al. 2003; Stewart & Simons 2006). More recently, Burt and Simons (2015, Burt et al.
2017) demonstrated that IRD increased the risk of offending in a large part (~80%) through the CKS. Together these results
evidence that IRD increases the risk of offending, at least in the short term, largely through its effects on schemas about the
nature of relationships, the value of delayed gratification, and the authority of social conventions—the cognitive knowledge
structure posited by SST.4 This basic model is presented in Figure 1.
What is not yet well understood is whether and how racial discrimination has a lasting effect on crime. In the
present study, we examine how adaptations to childhood and adolescent IRD are maintained over time and how the course
of development comes to vary between individuals as a consequence of variation in childhood IRD experiences. Extending
SST, we propose that the criminogenic effects of IRD endure cognitively through the CKS and are maintained through
processes of cumulative and interactional continuity.
Social Mechanisms for Stability
In our theoretical account, IRD as a harsh, unpredictable social interaction will have a lasting effect on crime through the
CKS as a function of the extent to which individuals’ exposure to harsh, unpredictable environments and interactions remain
stable. Thus, ours is a model of state dependence (persistence in “kinds of situations”), “a theory about differences in
4 Importantly, we do not conceive of these cognitive adaptations as unique to racial minorities (not a unique Black psychology or distinct
personality traits, e.g., Poussaint 1983; Curtis 1985) but rather as general social schemas that result from internalizing the lessons
inherent in hostile, unpredictable social experiences (Simons & Burt 2011).
situations or contexts and their consequences for stability or change in behavior patterns” (Laub & Sampson 2003: 24; Nagin
& Paternoster 1991), with the CKS as the key individual mechanism linking social context to development and behavior. For
most people, there is a considerable degree of parallelism in the social environments they encounter, and this consistency
fosters continuity in worldviews and behavior. Importantly, these continuities in environments arise not only through
individuals’ embeddedness in adversity or privilege by accident at birth, but through a variety of processes involving person x
environment interactions. When focusing on continuity, this shifts the focus from the stability of environments as a function
of exogenous influences to the ways that individuals, in part as a function of their past experiences and learning, both select
and shape the environments they encounter and the interactions in which they take part. Consistent with other approaches
(e.g., Agnew 1997; Caspi et al. 1989; Matsueda & Heimer 1997; Sampson & Laub 1993), we view the life course as a
probabilistic linkage or chain of events (Rutter 1990) and seek to unravel mechanisms promoting stability by highlighting two
forms of person x environment interactions that serve as pathways through which racial discrimination’s criminogenic effects
may endure: cumulative and interactional continuity.
Cumulative continuity is the idea that “[d]evelopment proceeds through a process of cumulative accretion in which each
advance grows out of, and builds upon, the one preceding it” (Rutter & Rutter 1993: 64; Caspi et al. 1989). This is a
selection argument that refers to stability in an individual’s situations and interactions that arises as a function of their past
experiences channeling them into future social situations with different constraints and opportunities (Kerckhoff 1993).
Cumulative continuity also captures selection processes in which individuals actively seek out environments that are
consistent with their preferences and dispositions, and such contexts, and the interactions therein, in turn, reinforce their
worldviews and behavioral tendencies over time (Caspi et al. 1989; Caspi et al. 1987).
Within the SST model, cumulative continuity occurs when individuals’ CKSs influence the fields and situations they
encounter, which can serve to reinforce the CKS. Importantly the schemas that comprise the CKS are not only unconducive
to legal conformity but also to success in numerous conventional domains. This leads to a piling up of disadvantages,
funneling individuals into “constrained opportunity structures” (McLeod & Nonemaker 1999; Rutter 1989; Laub & Sampson
1993) with less exposure to supportive, predictable social interactions and fewer resources and opportunities for changing
trajectories. Consistent with a cumulative continuity model, a recent contextual study of SST found that a higher CKS was
associated with selection into risky activities (e.g., bar hopping, visiting strip clubs) and criminogenic activity spaces (e.g.,
spaces with low control), which increase the likelihood of unpredictable, hostile encounters and situational inducements to
crime (Simons et al. 2014). Our current focus is on developmental contexts and involvement in conventional and positive
(i.e., predictable and supportive) relationships and institutions in adolescence and young adulthood.
Interactional continuity, on the other hand, occurs when “an individual’s interaction style evokes reciprocal sustaining
responses from others in ongoing social interaction, thereby reinstating the behavior pattern across the individual’s life
course…” (Caspi et al. 1989: 375). In other words, interactional continuity refers to individual characteristics influencing
interactions in such a way that the interactions serve to confirm their expectations through the reactions they incite. Social
schemas direct selective attention to certain situational stimuli and give meaning to these cues based on past experiences
(e.g., Crick & Dodge 1994; Mead 1934), which function to promote stability in situational definition and lines of action
(expectation-confirming interactions; Caspi et al. 1989). We expect that the CKS influences situational definitions and
behaviors, which may then evoke validating responses from others in social interaction; these evocative responses serve to
maintain a higher (or lower) CKS.
Altogether, this social-interactional SST model explains the enduring effects of racial discrimination and the
consequent stability of the CKS (and the likelihood of crime) as partially a function of the fact that a) individuals are likely to
select into environments and interactions that are consistent with their schemas and consequent behavioral predilections, and
b) individuals with a higher CKS are more likely to evoke hostile, unpredictable responses from others as a consequence of
their interactional styles. Consequently, individuals with a higher CKS are less likely to be involved in supportive social
interactions and institutions over the life course. As such, they continue to experience adverse interactions and
environments, and the subtle lessons and principles in these contexts and interactions can sustain or even amplify the
criminogenic influences of IRD. Notably, we recognize that involvement in supportive relationships and institutions are not
determined by the CKS but are also shaped by structural location, emergent factors, and chance events. We are not positing
a form of “childhood determinism” in which early life experiences with IRD determine later development; rather, the SST
model recognizes that due in part to exogenous influences, social context can foster changes in the CKS and discontinuity in
behavior. Given that our aim in the current study is to trace the enduring effects of IRD, however, we concentrate on the
mechanisms maintaining stability. With this backdrop, we turn to a consideration of social interactional pathways that are
salient features of young adulthood through which racial discrimination’s criminogenic effects endure through the CKS.
Our focus in the present study is how IRD through the CKS influences embeddedness in supportive social relationships and
institutions in emerging adulthood. In a departure from other life-course models of crime, we conceive of relationships and
institutional ties as salient developmental influences because they represent patterns of kinds of situations. In other words, we
theorize that satisfying and supportive relationships and institutional involvements represent aggregations of consistently
supportive interactions; conversely, harsh or unpredictable relationships and institutional ties represent collections of hostile
and unpredictable interactions. Thus, the mechanism linking transitions into or changes in relationships and institutional
bonds (as social context) to stability or change in offending through the CKS are the nature of the relationships and
interactions therein.5 A fundamental aspect of our SST model is that whereas the childhood experiences and the CKS are
important for understanding stability, experiences through all stages of the life course can alter the CKS and criminal
Broadly, research evinces that involvement in supportive social relationships and bonds to conventional institutions
that are formed or developed in emerging adulthood have a lasting impact on life trajectories (e.g., Clausen 1991; Kerckhoff
1993), including crime and deviance (e.g., Giordano et al 2002; Sampson & Laub 1993; for an excellent review, see
Siennick & Osgood 2008). In the present study, we focus on three social relationships or institutional bonds in emerging
adulthood as central links in the chains linking IRD to a higher CKS, which reduce the likelihood of future involvement in
conventional domains and relationships that provide the context for predictably supportive interactions: romantic
relationships, education, and employment. Consistent with other life-course models of crime (e.g., Laub & Sampson 2003;
Giordano et al. 2007), we propose that it is not the presence of these relationships or ties, but their nature (supportive vs.
hostile or unpredictable) that is important.
Romantic Relationships. Romantic relationships play a key role in social and emotional development in adolescence and
young adulthood, facilitating the honing and development of various schemas and forms of capital, including interpersonal
skills such as conflict resolution, mutual support, and consideration of others, all of which contribute to the ability to forge
meaningful, enduring supportive relationships over time (e.g., Collins, Walsh, & Furman 2009; Duck 2007; Longmore et
5 Rather than being a source of informal social control (e.g., Sampson & Laub 1993) or a catalyst for an identity shift (Giordano et al.
2002; Maruna 2001), in SST a shift to involvement in more supportive relationships and conventional institutions can reduce criminality
because of the predictably supportive interactions and lessons contained therein, which may contrast with individuals’ higher CKSs, and,
hence necessitate revisions as individuals adapt to their changing environments. Supportive interactions and messages embedded in adult
transitions into (or out of or changes in) supportive relationships and institutions can explain variation in criminality and crime.
al. 2014). Moreover, a wealth of research links supportive or satisfying romantic relationships to decreases in or desistance
from crime among adults (e.g., Bersani & Doherty 2013; Horney, Osgood, and Marshall 1995; Sampson & Laub 1993),
including among African Americans in disadvantaged communities (Doherty & Ensminger 2013). This pattern is not only
found among married older adults, but also holds for non-marital relationships and young adults and adolescents (Giordano
et al. 2007; McCarthy & Casey 2008; Simons & Barr 2014). Building on extant work, we propose that IRD impairs the
development of supportive relationships and relatedness—feeling connected with and supported by others (Burt et al. 2012;
Niwa, Way, & Hughes 2014)—and this includes romantic relationships.
As such, our model proposes that discrimination increases the CKS (decreases trusting, optimistic views of
relationships, delaying gratification, and respect for conventional norms) and thus reduces the likelihood that individuals will
be involved in supportive romantic relationships. Past research on the individual criminogenic schemas is consistent with this
contention (e.g., Rauer et al. 2013; Sampson & Laub 1993; Simons & Barr 2014). Again, we do not predict that IRD
decreases the likelihood of involvement in a romantic relationship, but rather involvement in a satisfying, rewarding,
harmonious romantic relationship as a consequence of both cumulative and interactional continuity. For illustration, as a
function of cumulative continuity, individuals with a high CKS are likely to hang out in locales that involve interaction with
others with similar preferences for risky activities. Thus, the pool of potential romantic partners with whom individuals
interact is influenced by their CKSs, and, thus, their partners more likely to have a high CKS as well. Moreover, individuals
with a high CKS are more likely to be attracted to individuals with similar worldviews and preferences. Thus, processes of
cumulative continuity generate observed patterns of assortative mating or homophily (Collins 1988; Kandel et al. 1990).
Interactional continuity should also influence the quality of individuals’ romantic relationships. By fostering a higher
CKS, IRD can impair the formation and stability of a supportive romantic relationship, which involves consideration of one’s
actions on one’s partner, ability to negotiate conflict effectively and without violence, delay of gratification and reciprocity,
and regard for many conventional norms (including remaining faithful to one’s partner, keeping one’s word, being
predictable and so on, e.g., Bryant & Conger 2002). Thus, IRD can augment the development of schemas that foster conflict
and distrust in relationships. Thus, we propose that by increasing the CKS, IRD decreases the likelihood of involvement in a
supportive relationship, and the lessons inherent in less supportive (more fractious) relationships can maintain or increase the
CKS and the likelihood of crime.
Education. Our model also posits that cumulative childhood exposure to IRD should have an enduring effect on crime in
part through its effects on involvement in the educational system. Numerous studies have documented a link between school
involvement and/or attachment and offending (e.g., Cernkovich & Giordano 1992; Hawkins et al. 2001; Maguin & Loeber
1990), and research suggests that that educational attainment mediates some of the effects of earlier adversity on adult
offending (e.g., Bernburg & Krohn 2003). Extant scholarship also suggests that IRD decreases school attachment and
commitment, academic curiosity and persistence, school utility, perceptions of academic competence, as well as educational
attainment (e.g., Neblett, Jr. et al. 2006; Unnever et al. 2016; Wong et al. 2003; see Unnever & Gabbidon 2011 for a
review). However, the causal mechanisms through which general racial discrimination should decrease school engagement,
attachment, and performance are not well specified. We build on this work but focus on the CKS as the conceptual bridge
linking IRD to differences in school performance and persistence. Specifically, the logic of our model suggests that by
increasing the CKS, IRD impairs success in school, both by reducing effort (engagement and optimism) as well as through
subtler factors that affect one’s ability to succeed in school (inability to delay gratification, respect for conventional rules).
Consistent with our argument, research identifies substantial racial disparities in achievement, due in part to what Heckman
and colleagues (2014; Heckman 2008) have alternatively called “soft skills,” “socioemotional abilities,” or “character,” which
we contend is in part a function of IRD. Thus, we propose that by increasing the CKS, IRD reduces the likelihood of
engagement, competence, and success in school, and most importantly, to thus experience the school as a predictably
supportive environment. In turn, negative experiences in the school may serve to sustain or increase the CKS and the
elevated likelihood of offending.
Employment. A considerable amount of research links employment to reductions in criminal behavior and desistance
(Horney et al. 1995; Laub, Nagin, & Sampson 1998; Shover 1995). Importantly, extant studies suggest that it is not merely
the fact of being employed at a given point in time that effects changes in criminality and/or crime, but rather satisfaction
with and/or commitment to a job (Apel & Horney 2017; Crutchfield 2014; Sampson & Laub 1993). This is consistent with
our theoretical model: it is not the state of employment that should effect changes in criminality (the CKS), but whether
one’s employment shifts one into a pattern of more supportive interactions, including messages that work colleagues can be
trusted, that delaying gratification begets future rewards, and that respecting conventional norms has value, including a
steady livable wage, reciprocating colleagues, and advancement in the workforce.
Analogous to its influence on the formation of positive romantic relationships and ties with educational institutions,
the schemas composing a high CKS are also not conducive to the procurement of a stable, satisfying job in the work force.
Due to processes of cumulative continuity, interpersonal racial discrimination can increase the CKS and thereby decrease
human and social capital which constrain individuals’ occupational opportunities and funnel some individuals into “bad jobs,”
that are less supportive and predictable (e.g., Crutchfield 2014; Kalleberg, Reskin, & Hudson 2000). Net of job
characteristics, maintaining steady employment requires a considerable degree of delaying gratification, the ability to
cooperate with employees and resolve conflicts in a relatively smooth manner, a willingness to engage in reciprocal
relationships, and to recognize workplace norms and hierarchies, essentially requiring at least a moderately high CKS. Given
this, we posit that IRD can have an enduring effect on crime by reducing individuals’ embeddedness in a supportive job
environment through its effects on the CKS.
Dynamic Interdependence of Social Pathways and Transactional Relations over Time
Importantly, and consistent with other life-course theories, we expect that involvement in various supportive relationships
and institutions are mutually related and reinforcing (Kerckhoff 1993; Matsueda & Heimer 1997; Mortimer & Shanahan
2003). Given our conceptualization of relationships and institutional ties as aggregates of interactions that vary in
supportiveness and predictability and recognizing the cumulative and intertwining nature of disadvantages and supports
across the life course, we examine these relationships in combination.
In addition to relational and institutional ties, a consideration of ongoing criminal and discrimination experiences is
essential to our model in that we argue that ongoing patterns of situations (and the lessons therein and consequences thereof)
are the causal mechanisms behind continuity and change in the CKS and criminal behavior. Specifically, consonant with
extant work, we predict that ongoing criminal involvement mediates some of the effects of IRD and the CKS on involvement
in social relationships and opportunities for supportive bonds with institutions over time (Hagan 1993; Sampson & Laub
1997). Moreover, in part through labeling and heightened social scrutiny that result from criminal involvement, we
hypothesize that adolescent crime is positively associated with racially discriminatory treatment (Alexander 2010; Feagin
2010; Unnever & Gabbidon 2011). Thus, our SST model predicts that both ongoing racial discrimination and criminal
involvement increase the CKS and the likelihood of crime in adulthood, both of which are influenced but not determined by
earlier IRD experiences and personality characteristics.
RACIAL SOCIALIZATION AS A RESILIENCE FACTOR
Recognizing the prevalence of racial discrimination as well as the strength of racial minorities in the face of such hostilities,
scholars have identified facets of African American cultures that promote resilience by mitigating the harms of racism. Tacitly
adopting a conceptualization of culture as a “toolkit” that serves as an interpretive frame and guide for action (Kirk &
Papachristos 2011; Swindler 1986), this “strength” perspective points to racial socialization as an important racially-specific
cultural practice that promotes resilience to racial discrimination among minority youth (e.g., Bowman & Howard 1985;
Essed 1991; Hughes et al. 2006). Broadly, racial socialization has been defined as “the process through which children come
to understand their own and others’ identities, roles, and positions vis-à-vis race in various contexts, and how race will
function in their lives” (Winkler 2011: 274). It includes verbal, nonverbal, deliberate, and unintended racial messages and
lessons (Thornton et al. 1990). Although children receive racial socialization messages from numerous sources, scholarship
highlights familial racial socialization, including both explicit and tacit messages, as a key cultural resource equipping
minority youth with competencies to cope with and overcome racism (e.g., Bowman & Howard 1985; Hughes et al. 2006;
Stevenson et al. 2003). For example, research links familial racial socialization to racial identity development and
psychological well-being, including higher self-esteem, racial pride, and feelings of efficacy (e.g., Hughes et al. 2006).
Although most African American caregivers engage in racial socialization with their children, and it is considered an
important component of parenting, both the content and the frequency of these messages vary between (and among) families
(Hughes et al. 2006; Peters 1985; Sanders Thompson 1994). Scholars have developed specific typologies representing
different racial socialization content messages that racial minority parents transmit to their children (see Coard & Sellers
2005; Hughes et al. 2006). Two forms of racial socialization have been identified as particularly salient among African
American families and important in understanding youth resilience: preparation for bias, defined as the various actions by
which adults warn youth about and discuss discrimination and provide skills and strategies for coping with and overcoming
racial barriers (Hughes et al. 2006), and cultural socialization, which include familial messages and practices that emphasize
racial heritage and promote cultural customs and traditions and thereby nurture children’s racial pride and sense of belonging
(Stevenson 1995). Research points to the benefic role of racial socialization in nurturing youth positive development through
tacit and explicit messages that foster, among other things, the ability to maintain self-esteem and racial pride in the face of
racial hostilities, to appropriately attribute race-based maltreatment to external sources, and to cope with and overcome
racism in healthy ways (see Hughes et al. 2006; Peters 1985). Through these practices African American children learn to
place specific social occurrences in a general context of race relations and develop strategies to resist and overcome racism
(Essed 1991; Peters 1985).
A wealth of recent research points to the resilience effects of preparation for bias and cultural socialization on
psychological well-being and academic outcomes (Bynum et at al. 2007; Fischer & Shaw 1999; Harris-Britt et al. 2007;
Neblett, Jr. et al. 2008; Stevenson et al. 2007). Moreover, a few recent studies show that these two forms of racial
socialization provide resilience to the criminogenic effects of racial discrimination by compensating for and buffering the
effects of IRD on offending (e.g., Burt et al. 2012). Specifically, evidence suggests that racial socialization compensates for
the effects of IRD on the CKS and buffers the effects of IRD on the CKS in contemporaneous assessments (Burt & Simons
2015; Burt et al. 2017). However, implicit in the conceptualization of racial socialization as a cultural practice that provides a
“toolkit” for constructing “strategies of action” to solve recurring problems is the idea that these cultural “tools” shape
behavior over time (Swidler 1986: 273). We assess this idea by examining whether adolescent racial socialization provides
enduring resilience to the lasting effects of IRD on cognitive and social pathways. Consistent with past work, we predict that
racial socialization is negatively associated with the CKS and buffers the effects of IRD on the CKS. Moreover, we also test
the hypothesis that racial socialization has an enduring resilience effect by increasing involvement in supportive relationships
and by reducing the deleterious effects of IRD on involvement in supportive relationships and institutions, respectively.
The present study takes a developmental “kinds of situations” approach to explicate how childhood IRD can influence adult
crime among African Americans and to examine whether and how racial socialization’s effects endure accounting for ongoing
adolescent offending and discrimination experiences. We measure cumulative exposure to racial discrimination and other
supportive relationships and institutions by combining measures across waves consistent with the SST model and past
research (e.g., see Simons & Burt 2011: 567; Simons et al. 2014). Our hypothetical model is depicted in Figure 2. Note that
dotted lines refer to explored but non-hypothesized pathways and dashed lines signify hypothesized buffering effects.
To test the proposed model, we utilized multiple waves of data from the Family and Community Health Study (FACHS), an
ongoing life-course investigation of health and development among African American families living in Iowa and Georgia at
the first interview. The FACHS was designed to analyze the particular risks and resources that disrupt or promote African
American family functioning and youth development in various contexts, capturing the diversity of African American families
and the variety of communities in which they live. Block groups (BGs) were used to identify neighborhoods in Iowa and
Georgia that varied on demographic characteristics, particularly racial composition (percent African American) and
economic level (percent of families living below the poverty line). Families living within the chosen BGs (259 in total) were
randomly selected and recruited by telephone from rosters of all black families who had a fifth grader (the target child) in the
public school system (see Simons et al. 2005; Brody et al. 2006, for more information).
The first wave of data collection began in 1997-1998, and follow-up interviews with the target children and their
family members were conducted every 2-3 years thereafter; (see online Appendix A for a table of youth ages by wave). The
current study utilizes target child data from the first through sixth waves of data, which follows the youth from late
childhood (10-12) to emerging adulthood (23-25). Of the 889 targets interviewed at wave 1, 699 (78.6% of the original
sample) participated more than a decade later at wave 6. Inclusion in the study sample required that respondents have valid
responses to at least half of the items used to create measures for each variable. When items were missing, the responses for
the valid items were averaged. Although varying slightly across models, the core analytic sample consists of the 613
individuals (369 females and 244 males) who provided data for the study variables. There has been little evidence of selective
attrition over the course of the study. Although when compared to earlier waves, a higher percentage of the wave 6
respondents were female and were slightly less delinquent, there were no significant differences between participants and
non-participants with regard to community measures, family structure, or parenting practices at earlier waves.6
Crime. The primary dependent variable was generated using youth self-reports at each wave and consists of the number of
different illegal acts (out of 11) respondents committed in the past year, such as shoplifting, aggravated assault, vandalism,
theft, and assault with a weapon. The items were culled from a measure created by Elliott and colleagues (1986). The
resulting variety scale gives one point for each of the 11 crimes respondents report committing in the previous 12 months.
At wave 6, the majority (80%) of respondents reported committing zero of the measured crimes. Among those who
committed at least one offense, approximately 48% reported engaging in 2 or more offenses, representing significant
variation in individual offending. The Kuder-Richardson coefficient of reliability (KR20; Kuder & Richardson 1937) was .70.
6 To examine potential bias from attrition, we replicated our findings with path models using full information maximum likelihood (FIML)
under missing at random (Little and Rubin 2002); these results are presented in online Appendix B.
To alleviate positive skew, we log transformed the crime variable (plus 1) before including it in the multivariate models.7
The control for prior delinquency is also a variety count and was generated from youth self-reports of acts
committed in the prior year at waves 1 and 2. These items were culled from the Diagnostic Interview Schedule for Children,
Version 4 (DISC-IV; APA 1994). Although the wording and exact content of the adult crime compared to the youth
delinquency scales varies, most of the items were comparable (see Burt et al. 2014). The mean KR20 was .73, and the alpha
from the composite scale generated by standardizing and averaging individual scores across the two waves was .51.
Interpersonal Racial Discrimination. A revised version of the 13-item short form of the widely used and validated
Schedule of Racist Events (SRE; Landrine & Klonoff 1996), which taps into experienced racial discrimination over the past
12 months, is used to measure IRD at waves 1 through 4. This scale has been used in a number of previous studies utilizing
the FACHS and has demonstrated high validity and reliability (e.g., Simons et al. 2006; see Burt et al. 2012). Respondents
were asked to indicate how often various discriminatory acts occurred “because of your race or ethnic background.” The
measure incorporates racially-based slurs and insults, physical threats, police hassles, and disrespectful treatment from
others.8 Items include, “How often has someone yelled a racial slur or racial insult at you…?”; “How often has someone said
something insulting to you…?”; and “How often has someone suspected you of doing something wrong…?” Response
categories ranged from 1 “Never” to 4 “Frequently.” Experiencing IRD was a relatively common experience for the youth in
the study; for example, at wave 4, youth reported experiencing an average of 6.6 different discriminatory events at least
once in the past year.9 The thirteen-item scales at waves 1 through 4 (average α = .89) were standardized and combined to
create a measure of cumulative experiences IRD in late childhood and adolescence (α = .72).
Criminogenic Knowledge Structure (CKS). Consistent with prior work (Burt & Simons 2015; Simons & Burt 2011), this
construct is measured at waves 4 and 6 as a composite of three scales: immediate gratification/impulsivity (13 items α ~
.76), hostile views of relationships (18 items; α ~ .90), and disengagement from conventional norms (7 items; α ~ .85).
These subscales coalesce with high loadings on a common factor predicted by discrimination and predictive of offending
7 We also estimated the models using a negative binomial model for crime, and the pattern of findings was analogous to that presented here (see
online Appendix C).
8 Given the potential confounding between criminal offending and experienced discrimination by law enforcement (i.e., “police hassles” or
“being suspected of doing something wrong”), we re-estimated models using a measure of discrimination that excludes these two items. The
results are analogous and presented in online Appendix D.
9 For an illustration of the prevalence of IRD among the youths, see online Appendix E for a table depicting the frequency of the discrimination
items as well as a discrimination event count at wave 4.
(Burt & Simons 2015; Simons et al. 2014).10 To create the CKS for the two waves, the subscales were standardized and
averaged at each wave (α ~ .62).
Supportive Relationships and Bonds. Our measure of embeddedness in supportive relationships and institutions consists
of a composite measure averaged at waves 5 and 6 (to capture cumulative embeddedness). At each wave, measures of
involvement in supportive romantic relationships and employment as well as educational achievement were combined.
Romantic relationship supportiveness was operationalized by combining two measures of satisfaction or happiness with one’s
romantic relationship. Respondents who were not in a relationship were coded as a new category as 3 between “somewhat
satisfied” (4) and “not very satisfied” (2) on one item ranging from “very satisfied” (5) to “not at all satisfied” (1). On the
second item, respondents not in a relationship were coded as 4 between “happy” (5) and “unhappy” (3) on a scale from
“extremely happy” (7) to “extremely unhappy” (1). This coding is consistent with our theoretical model that views an
unsatisfying relationship/bond as generating negative interactions and therefore having more negative effects (on the CKS)
than not being in a relationship or job. Similarly, a measure of supportiveness of employment was generated with a measure
of job satisfaction. Again, we coded those who were unemployed on a scale of 1 “Very unhappy” to 6 “Happy” as a new
category of 3 “No job” between 4 “Just so-so” and 2 “Unhappy”. In addition, supportive experiences in the educational
system was assessed at each of the two waves with a measure of highest level of education achieved in years. To create a
measure of general involvement in supportive and satisfying conventional relationships that are salient for the life stage of the
respondents in our study, we standardized and averaged the three subscales at each wave. The composite measures at waves
5 and 6 are standardized and averaged to create the cumulative measure of supportive relationships and bonds used in the
Racial Socialization. These measures are created from scales adapted from Hughes and colleagues (Hughes & Chen
1997; Hughes & Johnson 2001) originally derived from focus groups of African American families (Hughes & Dumont
1993). The items measure the frequency of a range of familial behaviors and communications with children around the issue
10 See online Appendix F for a list of all the items in the CKS measure, which is tantamount to the scale used in Burt and Simons (2015), a
slightly modified version of the original scale composed of available items at waves 4 and 6 (Simons & Burt 2011). To assess the implications of
our using an additive scale for the CKS and test for item bias or differential item functioning (DIF), we estimated a Multiple Indicators, Multiple
Causes (MIMIC) model (Muthen 1988) to formally test for item bias and confirm our operationalization of the CKS. The results, which are
displayed in online Appendix G, provide no evidence for DIF and the assumption of measurement invariance is met.
11 To gauge the robustness of our findings to alternative measures of supportive relationship and institutional involvement, we also used the
median split of romantic relationship and job satisfaction, coding those below the mean as -1, above as 1, and not in a job/relationship as 0. We
combined these at each wave with a measure of years of education, coded -1 = for less than 12 years, 0 = completing high school/12 years, and
1 = more than high school education. We also created a measure where the education measure is only measured at wave 6, to gauge the results
without double-counted those with the same level of education at both waves. The pattern of findings utilizing both of these measures is
analogous to the pattern of findings presented here.
of race in the previous 12 months and have demonstrated high validity and satisfactory reliability (Burt et al. 2012; Hughes et
al. 2006). Cultural socialization was measured at waves 3 and 4 with youth responses to five questions about how often adults
in their family engaged in activities or communications that highlighted African American culture and history or promoted
black pride, such as “celebrating cultural holidays” or “talking about important people or events.” Coefficient alpha for the
measure was approximately .85 at both waves. These scales were standardized and averaged to create a measure of
cumulative cultural socialization across the two waves (α = .53).
Preparation for bias was measured at waves 3 and 4 with six items that have been used in prior research to assess the
frequency of a variety of messages youth received about prejudice and discrimination from adults in their families in the past
12 months (α = .87 and .91, respectively). The measure includes discussions about poor or unfair treatment on the basis of
race and racist mistreatment observed on television as well parental discussions with youths that they will “have to be better
than others”. The preparation bias scales at waves 3 and 4 were standardized and combined to create a measure of cumulative
exposure to preparation for bias across the two time periods (α = .55).
Additional controls. In all of the models we controlled for both age and sex/gender of the respondent. Fifty-eight
percent of the respondents were female (=0). Age was measured in months at wave 4 and was standardized. When
examining the effects of racial socialization, we control for supportive parenting to assess the effects of cultural socialization
and preparation for bias practices net of general parental support. This measure, used in numerous prior studies (e.g.,
Simons et al. 2011; Simons et al. 2014), is a composite of four scales from youth reports of primary caregiver warmth,
monitoring, problem solving, and (reverse coded) harsh parenting taken at wave 3 (a=.77) and wave 4 (a=.72), which
were then standardized and combined (a=.60). Other control variables were considered, including target age at waves 5
and 6; primary caregiver age, race, and sex; and neighborhood disadvantage and racial-ethnic heterogeneity. These did not
influence the processes under consideration, and, hence, were not included in the models.
We investigate the hypothesized pathways and significance of mediating effects in a series of structural equation models
(SEMs) in Stata 14.2 (StataCorp 2016) corresponding to the path model depicted in Figure 2. SEMs have a number of
advantages over alternatives, such as multiple regression, including the ability to model correlated error terms and multiple
endogenous variables. Perhaps most important for the proposed study, SEMs allow us to test the significance of the
hypothesized direct and indirect effects in a series of equations (Bollen 1989). Following standard protocol (Aiken & West
1991), we test buffering effects by incorporating interaction (product) terms. We graph significant interactions to facilitate
Initial examinations evidenced the enduring effects of IRD. For example, preliminary examinations (not shown) reveal that
wave 1 discrimination (recall, capturing discrimination experiences the 12 months preceding the interview when youths
were between the ages of 10 and 12) was significantly correlated with emerging adulthood supportive ties (r = -.10; p<.05),
CKSW6 (r = .13; p<.001), and crimeW6 (r = .12; p<.001). Furthermore, consistent with our model, preliminary analyses
also indicated that there was no significant relationship between either IRD or the CKS and relationship or occupational
status (i.e., simply being employed or in a steady relationship). Table 1 displays the descriptive statistics for the study
variables and their correlations with adult crime. As shown, most study variables are significantly associated with adult
crimeW6, including childhood IRDW1-W4 (r=.16), supportive relationships and tiesW5-W6 (r=-.15), and the CKS at waves 4 and
6 (p<.01 for all). Notably, neither adolescent preparation for bias nor cultural socialization are significantly associated with
adult crime at the zero order.
Testing the SST Model of the Enduring Effects of IRD
Turning to our hypothetical model, we initially estimated a path model in which we included all potential paths. We then
constrained non-significant (t < 1.5) paths and residual correlations, which were not part of the hypothesized model, to zero
to improve model fit. The model fit indices significantly improved with the elimination of the paths, and the chi-square
difference between the baseline and reduced model was insignificant, supporting the adoption of the reduced model. Figure
3 displays the results of the reduced path analysis (standardized coefficients presented). The fit indices for the model (χ2(df) =
22.91(15); p=.0865; RMSEA = .03; CFI =.99) indicate good model fit and inspection of the residuals and modification
indices do not indicate any areas of poor fit. Overall, the model explains 47% of the model variance, and 27% of the
variation in adult crimeW6.
The path model presented in Figure 3 and indirect effects presented in the left side of Table 2 are largely consistent
with our expectations.12 Net of prior delinquency, ageW4, and sex/gender and consonant with prior work, cumulative
exposure to childhood and adolescent racial discrimination (IRDW1-W4) is associated with a higher CKSW4 (β= .22; p<.001)
and increased adolescent crimeW4-W5 (β= .12; p<.001). Although, IRD does not have a direct effect on supportive
12 See online Appendix H for the full results of the models, including the effects of the control variables and standard errors.
relationships and ties, it has a significant indirect through the CKSW4 and crimeW4-W5 (βis = -.061; p<.001), as shown in Table
2. Moreover, as shown in the top left of Table 2, in addition to directly increasing adolescent crime W4-W5, IRDW1-W4 also
indirectly augments crime W4-W5 through the CKSW4 (βis = .07; p<.001). Moving to the middle of the path model, both the
CKSW4 and crimeW4-W5 decrease involvement in supportive relationships and ties (β= -.18, β=-.11, respectively). As
hypothesized, involvement in supportive relationships and ties, in turn, decreases the CKSW6 (β= -.16; p<.001), which is
positively associated with adult crimeW6 (β= .33; p<.001). As expected, the path between crimeW4-W5 and emerging
adulthood IRDW5-W6 is positive and significant (β= .11), and IRDW5-W6 increases the CKSW6 (β= .14). Evidencing relatively
high stability, IRDW1-W4 has a strong relationship with IRDW5-W6 (β= .60; p<.001), and the CKS exhibits moderate stability
from wave 4 to wave 6 (β= .39; p<.001). Finally, as expected, adolescent crimeW4-W5 has a direct effect on emerging
adulthood crime (β= .24; p<.001).
Decomposition of indirect effects reveals that all hypothesized indirect paths are significant and in the expected
direction, including the focal four-step pathway from IRDW1-W4 → CKSw4 →supportive relationships"→ CKSw6"→"to adult
crime. The left panel of Table 2 presents the standardized indirect effects for all of the endogenous variables in our model.
As shown in the lower left side of Table 2, IRDW1-W4 has a significant indirect effect on adult crime (βis = .19; p<.001); thus,
the (standardized) total indirect effects of IRDW1-W4 on adult crime is .17, which includes this significant indirect effect and
the (non-significant) direct path of -.02 (displayed in Figure 3). As noted and consistent with our hypotheses, embeddedness
in supportive relationships has an indirect negative effect on adult crime through the CKSW6 (βis = -.06; p<.001). Moreover,
both crimeW4-W5 and IRDW5-W6 have indirect positive effects on adult crime (βis = .06 and βis = .05; respectively). Overall,
the results displayed in Figure 3 and Table 2 provide support for our theoretical model, indicating that childhood IRD has an
enduring effect on crime, and that it does so through the interplay of the CKS and supportive social relationships as well as
ongoing involvement in crime and recent discrimination experiences, even as recent IRD continues to have an unmediated
direct effect on adult crime.13
Examining the Compensatory Effects of Familial Racial Socialization
13 Notably, prior work on SST assessing the linkages between propensities, contexts, situations, definitions, and crime reveals that
discrimination has an indirect effect on adult crime through situational definitions in addition to its effect on crime through the CKS
(Simons et al. 2014).
Next we assessed whether familial racial socialization practices provide enduring resilience in part through their effects on
the CKS and supportive social relationships. In this model, we constrained the paltry, non-significant path between IRDW1-W4
and adult crime to zero to improve model fit. Figure 4 displays the results of the model examining whether two forms of
racial socialization—cultural socialization and preparation for bias—compensate for IRD’s criminogenic effects, net of the
effects of supportive parenting. Notably, cultural socialization and preparation for bias are strongly correlated (r=.49,
p<.001). As hypothesized and consistent with prior work, cultural socialization has a significant negative effect on the CKSW4
(β= -.14). On the other hand, preparation for bias has a smaller, positive influence on the CKSW4 (β= .07; p=.089).14
Consistent with hypotheses, both cultural socialization and preparation for bias have direct positive effects on involvement in
supportive social relationships (β= .08, β=.10), respectively, which translate into significant negative effects on crimeW6
(p<.01).. However, preparation for bias’s total indirect effects on crime are non-significant (see the bottom right panel of
Table 2), because its compensatory effects are offset by its positive association with the CKSW4. Additionally, preparation for
bias has a direct negative effect on crimeW4-W5 (β= -.09; p=.044). Interestingly, although both cultural socialization and
preparation for bias are positively correlated with IRDW1-W4 (r=.17 and .42, respectively), cultural socialization has a
(moderately) significant negative effect on IRDW5-W6 (β= -.06; p=.044), whereas preparation for bias’s effect is
nonsignificant. As displayed in Table 2, cultural socialization has indirect compensatory effects on all outcomes, with the
exception of IRDW5-W6, whereas all of preparation for bias’s observed compensatory effects are direct effects. Remaining
pathways are tantamount to those in the prior model.
Examining the Buffering Effects of Familial Racial Socialization
Next we assess whether racial socialization’s buffering effects observed across the short-term endure over time, in part by
reducing IRD’s negative effects on involvement in supportive relationships and bonds. These results are presented in Figure
5 with dashed lines indicating the moderating effects. Marginal effects of significant interactions are presented in Figure 6.
Notably, we first estimated a model that included buffering effects for four additional interactions: that between both forms
of racial socialization and IRDW1-W4 predicting crimeW4-W5; an interaction between cultural socialization and IRDW1-W4 in
predicting the CKSW4; and an interaction between cultural socialization and IRDW5-W6 in predicting the CKSW6. None of the
14 Further probing suggests that the effects of preparation for bias on a higher CKS is driven by preparation for bias’s association with
hostile views of relationships (r=.18; p<.01). Although out of the scope of this paper, prior research suggests that the effect of
preparation for bias on hostile views is moderated by supportive parenting and cultural socialization, such that at high levels (1 SD above
the mean) of either, the effect of preparation for bias on hostile views is non-significant (see Burt et al. 2012).
four interaction terms were significant; model fit was improved by constraining these paths to zero; and the chi-square test
was non-significant supporting the reduced model (χ2(df) = 1.53(4); p=.8213).
Focusing on the interactions, first and as predicted, Figure 5 reveals that the interaction between IRDW1-W4 and
preparation for bias on the CKSW4 is significant and negative (β= -.09; p<.05), suggestive of a buffering effect. As can be
seen in Graph A of Figure 6, which depicts marginal effects, preparation for bias reduces the positive effect of IRDW1-W4 on
the CKSW4, such that at approximately 1SD above the mean of preparation for bias, the effect of IRD is non-significant. Next
looking again at Figure 5, as hypothesized cultural socialization appears to reduce the effects of discrimination on supportive
relationships and bonds (β=.14; p<.001). As displayed in Graph B of Figure 6, IRDW1-W4 decreases involvement in
supportive social relationships but only at lower levels of cultural socialization (roughly, -½ SD below the mean). On the
other hand, the interaction between preparation for bias and IRDW1-W4 is negative, and is depicted in Graph C, which reveals
that the positive effects of preparation for bias on involvement in supportive relationships and institutions is only observed at
low levels of IRDW1-W4. At average and high levels of discrimination, preparation for bias does not significantly increase
supportive social relationships. Finally, preparation for bias also seems to moderate the pathway from IRDW5-W6 in predicting
the CKSW6 (β=-.07; p<.05). Graph D in Figure 6 depicts the marginal effects of racial discrimination across levels for
preparation for bias and reveals a buffering effect consistent with our hypotheses.
In sum, the results in Figures 5 and 6 reveal that cultural socialization reduces the effects of childhood and
adolescent racial discrimination on adult crime in part by reducing the negative effects of childhood IRD on involvement in
supportive relationships. Preparation for bias, on the other hand, buffers the effects of both childhood and emerging
adulthood IRD on the CKS. Moreover, findings suggest that the compensatory effects of preparation for bias on supportive
social relationships are only observed at lower levels of IRD.
Although we have attempted to allay concerns about the robustness of our model by replicating our analyses with a variety of
modeling and measurement specifications, a few remaining issues deserve attention. First, is the issue of causal ordering and,
potential endogeneity with respect to racial discrimination and postulated outcomes. While our primary models allowed for
the CKSW4 to influence later IRDW5-W6 (although, as noted, this path was dropped during model fitting to improve fit) and
crimeW4-W5 to increase IRDW5-W6, we estimated cross-lags of these relationships to provide an additional test for our proposed
causal order. As shown in Figure A of Appendix K and in support of our model, childhood IRDW1-W4 is associated with
increased crimeW4-W5, but the reverse is not true. Similarly, and shown in Figure B of Appendix K, focusing on short-term
change,15 IRDW5 increases the CKSW6, but the reverse is not the case. Second, we estimated a pared down model that focuses
on establishing the enduring effects of racial discrimination in a strictly specified temporal sequence. Here, we incorporate
IRDW1-W3 and IRDW4 as predictors of the CKSW5 and crimeW6. As shown in this model (see Appendix L), IRDW1-W3 influences
the CKSW4 while IRDW4 has no significant effect on the CKSW5 or crimeW6. These models provide further evidence
supporting the temporal order of the processes specified in our model, especially the concern of reverse causal ordering.
Several recent investigations into the causal mechanisms underlying racial disparities in street crime have taken a micro-level
approach, highlighting the criminogenic effects of interpersonal racial discrimination (Burt et al. 2012; Burt & Simons 2015;
Unnever & Gabbidon 2011). The aim of this work is not to challenge but to complement macro-level approaches to race and
crime, by incorporating the experience of stratification in social encounters, thereby explicating the empirically evident
heterogeneity within contexts and within groups. Adopting this perspective, several studies have evinced the criminogenic
effects of IRD among African American youth as well as the protective effects of racial socialization in the short-term,
primarily among adolescents (e.g., Burt et al. 2012; Burt & Simons 2015). However, research has not explored the enduring
criminogenic effects of IRD or the lasting resilience effects of racial socialization.
Attempting to address this gap in knowledge, the present study investigated the enduring effects of discrimination
on crime by elaborating the social schematic theory (Simons & Burt 2011; Simons et al. 2014) to incorporate life-course
pathways. Scholarship has evidenced that “continuity is often found to be the predominant feature of individual psychological
and behavioral trajectories” and “understanding the social and psychological processes that underlie this stability is a central
objective of life course analysis” (Mortimer & Shanahan 2003: xiv; Alwin & McCammon 2003; McLeod & Almazan 2003).
To that end, we have sought to discern continuities arising from childhood and adolescent racial discrimination experiences.
We attempted to account for the enduring effects of discrimination through the relationship between social schemas and
social interactions, suggesting that they reflect two kinds of continuity: cumulative and interactional. We proposed that the
cognitive consequences of racial discrimination are mediated in, and influenced by, social relationships and embeddedness in
conventional institutions, which represent aggregates of situations. According to our theoretical account, aggregates of
15 Unfortunately, the items assessing immediate gratification are not available at wave 3, and the earlier wave items are different for the
other two schemas, thus we assess short-term change in the CKS.
situations are important due to the nature of the persisting pattern of interactions therein, which inculcate lessons regarding
the nature of relationships, the wisdom of delaying gratification, and the authority of social conventions. Following Collins
(2000:19), our perspective focuses on social context as “distributions of microsituations” and highlights “the actual
experience of [racial] stratification in social interactions” that shape development.
Consistent with our expectations, we found that more frequent experiences with IRD in childhood and adolescence
were associated with adult crime through cognitive and social pathways. Specifically, IRDW1-W4 increases criminogenic social
schemas (i.e., hostile views of relationships, immediate gratification, and disengagement from conventional norms) in late
adolescence, which come together as a higher order criminogenic knowledge structure (CKS). A higher CKSW4, in turn,
decreases later involvement in supportive relationships and institutions both directly and indirectly through ongoing
involvement in crime. Embeddedness in supportive relationships decreases adult crime indirectly through its effects on the
CKSW6, while ongoing (emerging adulthood) discrimination increases crime directly and indirectly by increasing the CKSW6.
In other words, the CKS is associated with less supportive relationships and, presumably interactions, which further
strengthen the CKS over time. The CKSW4 is strongly related to offending in young adulthood, and the indirect, positive
effects of IRD through the CKS and supportive relationships on adult crime are significant. In sum, consistent with our
theoretical model, we find that racial discrimination’s criminogenic effects endure over time and across situations through
the CKS and its influence on supportive social relationships and ties as well as through its effects on ongoing crime and IRD.
Additionally, we investigated enduring cultural resilience in the form of familial racial socialization building on
studies that reveal the beneficial effects of racial socialization practices in resisting and overcoming racism. Specifically, we
built on recent work demonstrating that two forms of familial racial socialization—preparation for bias and cultural
socialization—provide resilience to the criminogenic effects of racial discrimination. Our findings revealed that preparation
for bias and cultural socialization provide resilience, but in their own ways. Cultural socialization is associated with a lower
CKSW4, preparation for bias is negatively associated with crimeW4-W5, and both are linked to increased involvement in
supportive relationships (although, as we later learned, only at low levels of discrimination for preparation for bias). In this
way, both forms of racial socialization have compensatory effects on the link between childhood IRD and adult crime
through these pathways. Furthermore, our findings revealed that familial racial socialization has enduring buffering effects.
Preparation for bias reduces both the effects of childhood and emerging adulthood IRD on the CKS. Cultural socialization
buffers the effects of IRD on involvement in supportive relationships, such that IRD only directly decreases involvement in
supportive social relationships at low levels of cultural socialization. Overall, the weight of the effects of racial socialization
was in the direction of enduring resilience. Thus, our results provide further evidence of the importance of adaptive familial
cultural practices in fostering resilience to a racist society, demonstrating that the effects of such practices are not ephemeral
and they contribute to a variety of domains that influence life satisfaction and well being, including reducing the criminogenic
effects of racial discrimination.
In sum, our results suggest childhood IRD increases the likelihood of adult offending, in part through its cognitive
effects that both increase ongoing offending and reduce prospects and opportunities for the development of supportive ties in
young or emerging adulthood. Importantly, research highlights the salience of this transitional period in the life course, with
evidence pointing to the potentially important developmental implications of relationships and ties in young adulthood (e.g.,
Conger et al. 2000; Hogan & Ashe 1986). For example, embeddedness in conventional institutions and supportive
relationships in young adulthood are significantly related to changes in adulthood crime and later prospects for employment,
education, and romantic relationships (Sampson & Laub 1993; Giordano et al. 2002; Rutter 1990). Moreover, these
impaired relationships are important outcomes in and of themselves. Life-course scholarship converges in recognizing the
importance of involvement in conventional relationships and institutions not just for criminal outcomes, but also for life
quality and satisfaction generally. For example, research indicates that relationship quality and longevity in adolescence and
early adulthood presage higher relationship quality in adulthood and increased life satisfaction (e.g., Be et al. 2013; Longmire
et al. 2014). Several studies have shown that blacks are less satisfied with their romantic relationships and are less likely to
marry than whites (e.g., Bulanda & Brown 2007; Goldstein & Kenney 2001; Sweeney & Phillips 2004). Our findings,
combined with past research (e.g., Simons et al. 2012) suggest that racial discrimination is a significant contributor to these
disparities in romantic relationship satisfaction and perhaps life satisfaction more broadly.
Although our focus has been on stability, not change, it is important to emphasize that the strength of the social
pathways is rather modest. Indeed, the indirect effects of childhood IRD on emerging adulthood involvement in supportive
social relationships was modest (β= -.06), while the coefficient between supportive social relationships and the CKSW6 was
twice this size. This is consistent with our model that recognizes the life-long malleability of the CKS and the influence of
exogenous factors on social contexts, which shape patterns of interactions, as well as past life-course studies of crime that
underscore the limited ability of childhood characteristics and events to predict adult criminality (e.g., Laub et al. 1998;
Robins 1978). Numerous social factors shape the CKS and involvement in social relationships and have the potential to offset
or augment racial discrimination’s effects (including racial socialization practices). Our model implies neither that IRD
produces a high CKS for most (or even many) African Americans, thereby impairing the quality of their interactions across
the life course, nor that the CKS determines social context and relationships. Rather, IRD can impair success in conventional
institutions and satisfying relationships, in concert with exogenous contextual and situational factors, especially when
individuals are enmeshed in other harsh, unpredictable situations and do not experience high levels of racial socialization.
We have attempted to trace pathways, however modest, through which early discrimination experiences, like other
harsh, unsupportive experiences (e.g., hostile parenting) can serve to promote cognitions that impair the formation of
supportive social ties and increase the likelihood of offending across the life-course in concert with ongoing discriminatory
experiences. Even so, our model and findings simultaneously point to pathways to desistance and sources of discontinuity.
Specifically, our model implies that changes in patterns of interaction—specifically, the supportiveness and predictability of
situations—will gradually change social schemas when these interactions (or the lessons therein) repeatedly contrast with
one’s expectations and situational definitions (see also, Giordano et al. 2002; Matsueda & Heimer 1997). Such changes can
follow from changes in social fields and interactions as part of shifts in roles or relationships and can be shaped by structure
and past experiences as well as chance events. As we have emphasized, the CKS has a social origin, is state dependent, and is
constantly evolving as lessons from interactional dynamics are internalized to facilitate ongoing adaptation to social
environmental realities. As Schulenberg et al. (2003: 414) note: “Discontinuity is as fundamental to development as
continuity,” and recognition of this requires “[a]n acknowledgement that the influence of earlier experiences may be
mediated, erased, or even reversed by later experiences.”
We have sought to elucidate the social and cognitive mechanisms underlying observed continuity from a life course
perspective, highlighting racialized pathways. Drawing attention to the mechanisms implicated in the enduring consequences
of racial discrimination and racial socialization is more than a theoretical extension. Rather, it holds with it implications for
future research as well as policy efforts aimed at improving the lives of racial minorities and decreasing crime (Bruce &
Rosigno 2003; Rutter & Rutter 1993). In particular, our findings suggest that supportive social and institutional relationships
are malleable areas where interventions could make a difference. Our model points to the value of designing institutions to
specifically address—provide support for—individuals (and groups) who, due to various disadvantages, experience
adversities that, for self-protective reasons, have led them to mistrust such institutions and expect to be mistreated (e.g.,
Anderson 1999; Feagin 2010), and who may have developed competencies or socioemotional capacities as a result of adverse
experiences that impair success in conventional domains. In our view, the key to effect enduring change in individuals’
worldviews is to foster a more predictably supportive overall balance of interactions. A short-lived intervention, no matter
how supportive or well-designed, should not effect change if individuals are returned to environments that are hostile and
unpredictable, where higher CKSs are adaptations to harsh, dangerous realties and constrained, unpredictable opportunities.
Our findings also add to the work that reveals the prominent and enduring protective effects of racial socialization practices,
and the potential for interventions that incorporate racial socialization as part of culturally-sensitive interventions (see e.g.,
Brody et al. 2006; 2008).
Although we believe our findings advance the literature on race and crime, it is not without limitations. Several
deserve mention. First, the sample consists of African American families originally living in various communities in Iowa and
Georgia at the initiation of the study (although the respondents had spread to roughly 30 different states at wave 6). We
assume that the processes identified here are not limited to this sample or these contexts, an assumption bolstered by similar
patterns of relationships observed in other samples relating to racial discrimination, racial socialization, and psychological
functioning (e.g., Sellers et al. 2006; Neblett, Jr. et al. 2009). Nonetheless, it is hoped that future research replicates these
findings on different (geographically diverse) samples and includes other ethnic-racial minority groups.
Another caveat is related to our “perceptual” measure of discrimination. We assume our respondents were
relatively accurate in reporting their experiences with racial discrimination, and a growing body of scholarship attests to the
validity of perceptual measures of racial discrimination, including the SRE instrument utilized here (Brody et al. 2006;
Klonoff & Landrine 2000). Even so, it is important that future work continue to probe the validity of various perceived
discrimination measures. In addition, our measures of supportive relationships and bonds are not extensive, and our evidence
that these represent aggregations of supportive (vs. hostile and unpredictable) interactions is inferential. While our data
allows us to follow individuals over time and observe developmental dynamics, this comes at a cost to our capturing
situational dynamics in real time. Even as we note that many of our propositions are grounded in situational, including
experimental, research (e.g., Dodge 1980), we think our findings would be greatly bolstered by replications with situational
data, including experimental, observational, or ecological momentary assessment data, to shed light on the dynamics of
situational behavior. Finally, it is also the case that in tracing the enduring effects of childhood IRD to young adulthood, we
have largely ignored the role of institutional behavior in shaping trajectories of development. Future research, perhaps using
situational data, could incorporate institutional constraints into the life-course model.
We view our social pathways model as provisional, and future work could incorporate additional transitions that
have the capacity to significantly alter patterns of situations (as turning points), such as having a child (e.g., Edin & Kefalas
2005; Giordano et al. 2002; Kreager et al. 2010), religious conversion (e.g., Giordano et al. 2002), or involvement in the
criminal justice system (Pager 2003; Western 2006). Altogether, for some that face numerous, cross-cutting disadvantages,
childhood IRD can contribute to sustained patterns of hardship and inequality and continued marginality.
Our findings further underscore the importance of racial socialization among African American families as an
adaptive cultural practice that provides enduring resilience to discrimination. The body of work demonstrating the
protective effects of racial socialization among African Americans should put further nails in the coffin of the notion of
minority cultures as “maladaptive”; quite the contrary, African American families and cultures have evolved practices that
provide youth and adults with competences to cope with and overcome persistent racism. Future work could go beyond
measuring whether or not parents transmit various racial socialization messages to better capture the specific lessons or
activities so that we can better understand how racial socialization shapes racism-related coping. Qualitative studies could be
particularly useful in this regard.
The costs of racial discrimination, in addition to other negative social, psychological, and physiological outcomes (e.g.,
Krieger 2000; Williams 1997), include more crime, increased risk of crime (and victimization) for African Americans, and a
host of negative developmental and community consequences that may result (e.g., Wakefield & Wildeman 2013; Western
2006). Our focus has been elucidating how racialized experiences—in interactions and socialization—influence crime for
African Americans over time and influence racial disparities in offending. To be sure, there are a multitude of processes
through which the macrostructures of racial stratification are manifest in the micro-conditions of individual lives. Given its
complexities, the study of racial stratification’s effects on crime requires that we think at multiple levels of analysis and about
the connections between contextual and individual experiences (e.g., Bellair et al. 2003; Hawkins et al. 2000). What is
more, these processes we examine at the micro-level contribute to the reproduction of racist status structures, including
processes of (racialized) mass incarceration, and the perpetuation of marginality and the ‘color line’ (Wacquant 2001).
Notably, our research also points to sites where racial inequality can be resisted and transformed, and underscores the crime-
reduction potential of a broad antiracist movement.
We examine adult crime as an outcome; yet, to be sure, engaging in crime is not an end in itself, but rather, as we
have shown, feeds back into the processes of development in ways that serve to “knife off” or “mortgage” possibilities for
involvement in supportive social fields (Laub & Sampson 2003). Moreover, acts of crime themselves are more than simply
(illegal) situational actions; an act of crime is itself racially coded and unevenly consequential. The higher degrees of
surveillance and harsher punishments faced by minorities make offending by minorities riskier and potential costlier (e.g.,
Spohn 2015; Tonry 1995).
In this 21st century, a burgeoning body of scholarship has highlighted the role of racism and institutional
discrimination, veiled by ostensibly color-blind laws and policies, in contributing to the hyperincarceration of African
Americans and numerous collateral consequences (e.g., Alexander 2010; Western 2006). This work points to the stark
racist causes and racial consequences of our carceral state, including “civic death” (Gottschalk 2015) or “social incapacitation
[as] a process of dehumanization by which punitive social control becomes an instrument that prevents marginalized
populations from becoming productive citizens who can feel dignity and affirmation from institutions of socialization” (Rios
2015: 62). Our findings add to this body of scholarship unmasking the racialization of crime and punishment and theorizing
the criminogenic effects of community-level patterns of racial inequality, evidence of the significant, lasting effects of
interpersonal racial discrimination on African Americans’ development, criminality, and life opportunity. Altogether this
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Figure 1. SST Model Depicting the Effects of Racial Discrimination on Crime through the CKS.
Approximately ~80% of the effects of racial discrimination are mediated by the CKS in contemporaneous assessments (Burt & Simons 2015).
Figure 2. SST Hypothetical Model Depicting the Enduring Social and Cognitive Effects of Racial Discrimination on Crime.
Note: Dotted lines refer to pathways examined but not hypothesized; PC refers to “Primary Caregiver”.
Figure 3. Path Model Displaying the Effects of Racial Discrimination on the CKS, Supportive Relationships, and Crime over Time.
Notes: Values presented are standardized parameter estimates. **p£.01; * p£.05 (two-tailed tests), n = 613; c2 = 22.91, df =15, p=.0861; RMSEA = .029;
Pclose (probability RMSEA £.05) = .930; CFI = .99; TLI =.98; Model R2=.47. See online Appendix H for full results.
Figure 4. Path Model Examining the Enduring Compensatory Effects of Familial Racial Socialization.
Notes: Values presented are standardized parameter estimates; **p £.01; *p £.05, †p £ .10 (two-tailed tests), n = 612. c2= 33.39, df = 26, p = .151;
RMSEA= .022; Pclose (probability RMSEA £.05) = .995; CFI = .99; TLI =.99; Model R2=.59. See Appendix I for full results.
Figure 5. Path Model Examining the Buffering Effects of Familial Racial Socialization.
Notes: Values presented are standardized parameter estimates; **p £.01; *p £.05, †p £ .10 (two-tailed tests), n = 612. c2= 81.55, df = 66, p = .094;
RMSEA = .020; Pclose (probability RMSEA £.05) = 1.000; CFI = .99; TLI =.98; Model R2=.61. See Appendix J for full results.
Figure 6. Graphs depicting marginal effects for significant interactions in Figure 5.
A. Effects of IRDW1-W4 on CKSW4 across levels B. Effects of IRDW5-W6 on CKSW6 across levels of
of Preparation for BiasW3-W4 of Preparation for BiasW3-W4
Mean of Stdized Preparation for Bias, W3+W4
0.1 .2 .3 .4
Kernel Density Estimate of zavpb
-.2 0 .2 .4
Marginal Effect of Stdized Discrimination Waves 1-4
on CKS W4
-2 -1 0 1 2 3
Stdized Preparation for Bias, W3+W4
Thick dashed lines give 95% conﬁdence interval.
Thin dashed line is a kernel density estimate of zavpb.
Mean of Preparation for Bias, W3+W4
0.1 .2 .3 .4
Kernel Density Estimate of zavpb
-.1 0 .1 .2 .3 .4
Marginal Effect of IRD waves 5-6
on CKS W6
-2 -1 0 1 2 3
Stdized Preparation for Bias, W3+W4
Thick dashed lines give 95% conﬁdence interval.
Thin dashed line is a kernel density estimate of zavpb.