Seeking to improve our understanding of the protective factors that mitigate the risks of legal system involvement among transition-age foster youth, this study focuses on social bonds as predictors.
Drawing from social control theory and using longitudinal foster youth survey data (n = 687), we explore two domains of social bonds (interpersonal bonds, institutional bonds) youth had at the onset of adulthood (age 17), and assess the association between domains of social bonds and later incarceration in early adulthood (between ages 17 and 21). While results provide no support for the significance of interpersonal bondedness, institutional bonds were significantly associated with decreased odds of later incarceration. This suggests that social bonds may be stronger for institutional domains than for interpersonal domains in helping youth to avoid later incarceration. These findings help explain why some youth navigate the transition to adulthood better than others with regard to legal system involvement, and inform efforts to develop policy and provide services more effectively. Implications and recommendations for the field and professionals are discussed. (Publisher abstract provided)