The Contextual Importance of Socio-Structural Variables and Family Processes in Adolescent Deviance

Alexander T. Vazsonyi, Auburn University
Jennifer Crosswhite, Auburn University
J. Melissa Partin, Auburn University

A number of theoretical perspectives in criminology have identified the family as key in understanding crime and deviance (e.g., Gottfredson & Hirschi, 1990, Hirschi, 1969; Sampson & Laub, 1993). Empirical investigations have documented the importance of both distal or structural-contextual family characteristics (e.g., family size) as well as proximal family processes (e.g., parental monitoring) in understanding crime and deviance. Yet, few investigations have followed Sampson and Laub's important work which documented that most of the variability in deviance explained by distal processes were mediated by the proximal family processes. The current investigation attempts to extend this line of work in three important ways: (1) By re-examining the relationships between distal family characteristics, proximal family processes, and adolescent deviance; (2) by testing these relationships on a sample of over N = 8,000 adolescents from four different national contexts (Hungary, Netherlands, Switzerland, and the United States); and (3) by more comprehensively examining distal family charactaeristics, proximal family processes, and adolescent deviance. Preliminary results indicate that distal family characteristics accounted for between 4% and 6% of the variance in deviance, while proximal family processes accounted for approximately 13% to 16% of the variance in deviance across all groups.

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Updated 05/20/2006