Purpose: Although studies of General Strain Theory (GST) typically include measures of physical health in multi-item indices of strain, no work has investigated the independent influence of physical health on criminal offending. The current research explores the relationship between physical health and criminal offending among low-income women living in disadvantaged neighborhoods. Methods: Using data from the Welfare, Children, and Families (WCF) project, criminal behavior is predicted over two years with measures of physical health, depression, anxiety, competing strain, and relevant background factors. Results: Poorer physical health at baseline and declines in physical health increase the odds of offending onset among previous non-offenders and reduce the odds of decreased offending among previous offenders. In offending onset models, higher levels of anxiety and depression at baseline and increases in these symptoms partially mediate the effect of poorer baseline health and fully mediate the effect of the loss of physical health. In decreased offending models, increases in anxiety and depression fully mediate the effect of poorer baseline health and partially mediate the effect of the loss of physical health. Conclusions: The data suggest that poor health and declines in physical health influence both offending onset and offending escalation directly and indirectly through increases in anxiety and depression.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Social Psychology
- Applied Psychology
- Sociology and Political Science