School Social Bonds, School Climate, and School Delinquency: A Multilevel Analysis

Eric A. Stewart, Georgia State University

While there is considerable evidence that links school-related variables to delinquency, few studies have simultaneously considered the joint influences of individual- and school-level factors on school delinquency. The purpose of this research is to examine the extent to which individual- abd scgiik-level influences explain variations in school delinquency among 10,578 students nested in5 28 schools. Using social control and school climate perspectives, the results were largely supportive of social control theory and showed limited support for school climate theory. In particular, the hierarchical linear modeling (HLM) results revealed that higher levels of school attachment, school commitment, and belief in school rules were associated with lower levels of school delinquency, net of family and peer influences. Contrary to expectations, school involvement was relatively unimportant in explaining variations in school delinquency. With regard to school climate theory, the following school-level predictors of school delinquency were examined: school heterogeneity, school size, school poverty, and a control for school location. The results showed limited support for school climate theory. The only school climate variable that was significant was school size. Also, the control for school location was significant. In other words, school-level characteristics revealed that larger schools in urban locations were imporant in explaining variation in school delinquency. However, the results showed that individual-level factors were relatively more important at explaining variation in school delinquency than school-level factors. Overall, the results suggest that a comprehensive explanation for school delinquency should include the combined effects of individual- and school-level factors.

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Updated 05/20/2006