Drinking and Drift: an Empirical Application of Soft Determinism

Timothy Brezina, Tulane University
Alex R. Piquero, University of Florida

ABSTRACT
In this paper, we pursue suggestions from previous research and apply the insights of soft determinism to the study of deterrence. We entertain the hypothesis--suggested by soft determinists--that sanctions may deter some individuals but not others. In particular, soft determinists anticipate that sanctions will have little or no deterrent effect on the behavior of individuals who are strongly constrained to either crime or conformity. To the extent that sanctions serve as meaningful deterrents, they should primarily deter individuals who are relatively unconstrained and enjoy more freedom of action and/or choice. In an effort to conduct an intial test of this hypothesis, we analyze data from a national sample of adolescents, and examine the effect of one type of informal saction--namely, perceived parental disapproval--on the drinking behavior of selected categories of youths. The results of cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses are generally consistent with the hypothesis, suggesting that future research in this area could be fruitful.

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Updated 05/20/2006