Adolescent Perceptions of Fear and Safety within School: A New Perspective on Social Bonds

Erin Farley, University of Delaware

Hirschi's (1969) Control Theory has found continued support over the years, and has been found by other researchers to explain variation among students' involvement in delinquent behavior, risk-taking behaviors, and drug use. Also, perceptions of fear among students has garnered great attention in light of recent school shootings, and has been associated with increased anxiety, avoidance behaviors, and social withdrawal. This paper utilizes self-report surveys administered in 2001 to a sample of 8th grade Delaware students, and examines how perceptions of concern and safety among students are related to social bond components. School involvement and commitment are integral components to social bond theory. If heightened perceptions of fear among students are negatively associated with social bond components, perceptions of fear may contribute to an increase likelihood of a student's involvement in delinquent behavior, risk-taking behavior, and drug use. Findings support an association between perceptions of fear and social bond components. However, the strength of the relationships among the components and fear vary. Findings and suggestions for future research are discussed.

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Updated 05/20/2006