Expecting the Unexpected? Expectations for Future Success Among Adolescent First-Time Offenders

Alissa Mahler, Adam Fine, Paul J. Frick, Laurence Steinberg, Elizabeth Cauffman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Adolescent first-time offenders demonstrate greater risk of continued offending, justice system contact, and high school dropout. The current study evaluates if optimistic expectations protect youth by reducing offending and improving school grades for 3 years following a first arrest (N = 1,165, Mage = 15.29). This article also considers whether improved behavior raises expectations about the future and uses autoregressive latent trajectory modeling with structured residuals to examine the within-person cross-lagged associations between expectations and behavior. The results indicated that positive expectations reduce offending and improve grades, which are in turn associated with higher expectations. Although raising expectations may improve outcomes following an arrest, ensuring adolescents have the tools to meet their goals may be an effective way to raise expectations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e535-e551
JournalChild development
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2018
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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