The Queer Criminal: Impacts of Risk and Protective Factors on Sexual Minority Offending
Williams, Meredith L.
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The experiences of lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) youth and young adults with offending and the criminal justice system have increasingly become a topic of criminological concern. A possible research agenda focused on sexuality and crime could follow the pattern of thought on gender and crime, which grew from finding that women offend differently, to exploring how gendered lives impact the nature and extent of female and male offending. This research pattern has shown criminologists that our theories must account for the variance in gendered lives. With this project, I propose a similar trajectory for understanding the relationship between sexual orientation and offending. Using the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health, N = 8793), I provide a baseline, national examination of the nature and extent of offending in the United States, for several life course stages, when sexual minority status is considered. I begin to show how the differential life experiences of sexual minority youth and adults impact offending. I do this by exploring how various risk and protective factors related to social institutions influence offending across the life course, comparing sexual minority individuals to their peers during youth, early adulthood and adulthood. I find that sexual minority youth and adults, relative to their sexual majority peers, report greater prevalence and frequency of several (mostly non-violent) criminal behaviors. I show that a variety of protective factors (such as school and family attachments) and risk factors (such as alcohol use, victimization and housing instability) can account for much of that difference. I demonstrate that sexual orientation is indeed another crucial attribute for understanding the relationship between social inequality and offending. I also show that current theories are insufficient to fully explain the offending of sexual minority youth and adults.