You Can Hang With Us But: Peers and the Options for Being Non-Delinquent in High Crime Neighborhoods

Patrick Carr, St. Joseph's University
Jamiliyah Gilliam, St. Joseph's University

It has long been a staple finding of criminological research (for example Warr and Stafford 1991; other refs) that having delinquent or criminal peers increases the chance that a person engages in delinquent and criminal behavior. This is thought to be especially true for young people. However, even in high crime neighborhoods there are significant numbers of young people, even those who have delinquent and criminal peers, that manage to stay out of trouble. Based on the data from a multi-wave comparative study of delinquent and non-delinquent youth in three high crime Philadelphia neighborhoods we argue that within peer groups young people are often prohibited from engaging in delinquent behavior by delinquent peers. We explore the reasons for this, and suggest that the often contradictory norms found in peer groups serve merely to ensure that individuals whose talents can take them beyond their origins not get involved in behavior that can threaten their future. We suggest that this twist on cumulative continuity has implications for how we think of the relationship between peers and delinquency.

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Updated 05/20/2006