Why Don’t More Black Americans Offend? Testing a Theory of African American Offending’s Ethnic-Racial Socialization Hypothesis
Criminology is replete with research on the correlates of African American offending, yet theorizing efforts have lagged. Unnever and Gabbidon recently proposed a Theory of African American Offending, an integrated explanation of African Americans’ risks for and resilience to offending. Many of the theory’s hypotheses remain untested, especially its major claim that positive ethnic-racial socialization is the main reason more Black Americans do not offend. The theory argues that positive ethnic-racial socialization inhibits African American offending by attenuating the criminogenic effect of weak social bonds. Using data from a prospective, longitudinal cohort of African Americans from the Woodlawn Project, we test whether these postulations hold for adolescent delinquency and adult offending and find general support: Positive ethnic-racial socialization buffers the effect of weak school bonds on adolescent substance use and adult offending for males, but not females, across most crime types. Advancing criminological discourse on race, offending, and resilience, this study has implications for broader criminological theorizing and crime-reduction efforts.