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Life history theory has been used to understand how harsh and unpredictable environments contribute to risk behaviors. The theory suggests that exposure to negative environments leads individuals to adopt a “fast” life strategy, which is hypothesized to make individuals more likely to engage in risky behavior that is associated with immediate rewards. Using data from a sample of 1216 justice-involved male youth, we defined distinct groups of youth with a “fast” versus “slow” life strategy, based on their scores on measures of sensation seeking, impulse control, future orientation, consideration of others, and suppression of aggression. A logistic regression was used to test how different environmental factors predicted LH strategy group membership. Having a fast strategy was associated with greater victimization, higher parental hostility, and lower quality home environments. Growth curve models were used to examine group differences in offending and aggression over five years. Youth with a fast life strategy engaged in more violent and non-violent offending, as well as more relational and physical aggression. Although there were significant decreases in these behaviors within both groups over the five years, these group differences remained consistent over time.


Institute for Learning Sciences and Teacher Education

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Journal Article

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