What is the Role of Pubertal Timing in Strain Theory Explanations of Delinquency? Toward an Age-Graded Theory of Stress Exposure

Holly Foster, Texas A & M University
John Hagan, American Bar Foundation/Northwestern Univ
Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, Columbia University, Teachers College

The main purpose of this research is to examine how developmental extensions of stress and strain theories may be furthered by incorporating the role of early and late adolescent maturation relative to peers. We hypothesize that off-time maturation may increase adolescent exposure to strains (e.g., heightened parent-child conflict (Paikoff and Brooks-Gunn 1991)], that in turn may increase adolescent involvement in delinquency. The effects of early and late maturation on delinquent behavior by gender are investigated. These hypotheses are tested with a national sample of adolescents from The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health and with the early adolescent cohorts from the Project for Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods. Both data sets contain information on pubertal timing, strains, and delinquent behaviors on male and female youth. We draw on related principles of life course theory to incorporate these results into a developing theory of age-graded stress exposure and delinquency involvement.

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Updated 05/20/2006