Developmental Trajectories in Delinquent Peer Associations

Chester L. Britt, Arizona State University West
Barbara J. Costello, University of Rhode Island

This research uses a latent class modeling approach to test for different trajectories of delinquent peer association through adolescence. These models are used to test predictions of social learning theory and of control theory about the timing of delinquent peer association and delinquent behavior. We use data from the first seven waves of the National Youth Survey and test for patterns of delinquent peer association by age cohort (indicated by age at the Wave 1 interview). Three key findings emerge from the analysis. First, there were three identifiable types of peer group association: non-delinquent, minor delinquent, and serious delinquent. Second, the type of peer group association appears to be stable over time. Third, the type of peer group association was predictive of the youth's overall level of delinquency, but not generally predictive of changes in levels of delinquency through adolescence.

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Updated 05/20/2006