Formal Criminal Intervention, Deviant Networks, and Subsequent Delinquency: A Test of Structural Labeling Theory

Jon Gunnar Bernburg, University at Albany
Craig Rivera, Niagara University'Department of Criminal
Marvin D. Krohn, University at Albany

The present paper examines the immediate impact of formal criminal labeling on involvement in deviant social networks and increased likelihood of subsequent delinquency. According to structural labeling theory, formal criminal intervention should affect the individual's immediate social networks. In many cases, the stigma of the criminal status may trigger social exclusion from conventional social networks, and from conventional peer networks in particular. As a result, the probability that the individual becomes involved in deviant networks increases. The formal label may thus ultimately increase involvement in subsequent deviance. We use panel data of a sample of urban adolescents to examine this causal process. Our findings provide support to the labeling argument. Using measures from three successive timepoints, we find that juvenile justice intervention positively affects subsequent involvement in serious delinquency through the medium of involvement in deviant networks, including street gangs and delinquent peer networks.

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Updated 05/20/2006