An Empirical Assessment of Ronald Akers' Social Learning Theory of Crime and Deviance as it Pertains to Youth Drug Use

Daniel Pontzer, Indiana University of Pennsylvania

This study tested the components of differential reinforcement and differential association as casual indicators of youth drug use. Data was derived from the National Household Survey on Drug and Alcohol Use (1997). The population consisted of 7,488 respondents, aged (12 to 17). Independent variables consisted of four different scales including Parental Differential Reinforcement, peer Differential Reinforcement, Parental Differential Reinforcement 2, and Differential Association. in addition to these social earning variables, the control variables of Age and Gender were also measured. The dependent variables consisted of three drug-use indexes for lifetime use, use in previous year, and use in past month. The social learning variables were significant across all three models, with error reduced in predicting the level of drug use by 33.5% for lifetime use, 32.9% for previous year use, and 28% for past month use. Differential Association was found to be the social learning variable that accounted for the most variance, with approximately a 2:1 ratio compared to the next strongest social learning variable Peer Reinforcement. Age of the respondent was found to be the strongest indicator of drug use for all three indexes.

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Updated 05/20/2006