Peer Influence in Juvenile Justice

D. Wayne Osgood, The Pennsylvania State University

ABSTRACT
This paper will review the role of peer influence in programs of the juvenile justice system. Even before the creation of the juvenile justice system, reformers were concerned that grouping delinquent youth together would exacerbate delinquency through negative peer influence. Recent evidence one again highlights the possibility of juvenile justice programs having harmful effects of through a process of deviant peer contagion, and this has led some scholars to argue against all programs that bring together groups delinquent youth. In contrast, a popular family of treatment approaches (guided group interaction and positive peer culture) is founded on the proposition that peer influence among delinquent youth is founded on the proposition that peer influence among delinquent youth can be the source of positive change, if properly controlled and guided. This paper will present and evaluate the evidence concerning the peer influence process in juvenile justice settings with the goal of determining the likely advantages and disadvantages of different programmatic approaches.

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Updated 05/20/2006