Re-Examining the Age, Peer, and Delinquency Relationship

Sam Field, University of Texas - Austin
Daniel P. Mears, The Urban Institute

Despite longstanding understanding of the strong relationship between delinquency and age and delinquent peer association, examination of the interrelationship between these three factors remains largely unaddressed. Drawing on research on the age/peer link and the significance of peer relations for specific offenses, we employ data from the National Youth Survey (NYS) to examine the interactive relationship between age and peer associations on delinquency. Specifically, we hypothesize that there is a differential effect of delinquent peer associations among older versus younger youths, but that this effect will be present only for substance abuse-related offenses due to the importance and "stickiness" of peer associations for these types of offending. The authors call for greater attention to theoretically specifying and explaining the age/peer relationship and its link to specific types of delinquency.

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Updated 05/20/2006