Having little hope for the future encourages offending over time, the study said.
"In a lot of distressed communities and for a lot of offenders, they don't see a future," said Alex Piquero, a professor of criminology at University of Texas at Dallas, US.
The youths' perceptions about how long they would live also impacted how they interpreted the consequences of offending, said the study.
Teenagers who anticipated early death were more likely to focus on "the here and the now", Piquero said.
They are impulsive; they do not think about the risks of their behaviour, said the study.
For the study, Piquero began by asking the offenders, approximately 16 years old, their thoughts on when they would die.
Those who said they would live longer were more likely to have controlled their impulses, said the study.
The study appeared in the journal Justice Quarterly.