Skip to main content Accessibility help

Children's disruptiveness, peer rejection, friends' deviancy, and delinquent behaviors: A process-oriented approach



This study examined whether peer rejection and affiliation with deviant friends throughout childhood could mediate the link between early disruptiveness and two aspects of delinquent behaviors (i.e., violence and substance use) in a sample of 375 children. Furthermore, we tested whether the two putative mediators operated in a sequential manner or in a parallel manner. Participants' disruptiveness, peer rejection, and friends' deviancy were assessed throughout childhood (ages 7 to 13). Delinquency-related outcomes were assessed at ages 14 and 15 years. Results indicate that the sequential mediational model was supported when delinquency-related violence was the outcome, but not when substance use was the outcome. The discussion stresses the differential role of peer rejection and affiliation with deviant friends in regard to the two outcomes considered in this study and in regard to the time frame when they were measured.This research was made possible by a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. We thank the authorities and directors of schools in the Val d'Or School Board as well as the teachers and children for their first-rate collaboration.


Corresponding author

Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Frank Vitaro, GRIP, University of Montreal, 3050, Edouard-Montpetit, Montreal, Quebec H3T 1J7, Canada; E-mail:


Hide All


Adlaf, E., Paglia, A., & Ivis, F. J. (2000). Drug use among Ontario students 1977–2001: Findings from the OSDUS (CAMH Research Document 10). Toronto: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.
Alexander, C., Piazza, M., Mekos, D., & Valente, T. (2001). Peers, schools, and adolescent cigarette smoking. Journal of Adolescent Health, 29, 2230.
Allen, J. P., Porter, M. R., McFarland, F. C., Marsh, P., & McElhaney, K. (2005). The two faces of adolescents' success with peers: Adolescent popularity, social adaptation, and deviant behavior. Child Development, 76, 747760.
Arbuckle, J. L., & Wothke, W. (1999). AMOS 4.0 user's guide. Chicago: SmallWaters.
Bagwell, C. L., Coie, J. D., Terry, R. A., & Lochman, J. E. (2000). Peer clique participation in middle childhood: Associations with sociometric status and gender. Merrill–Palmer Quarterly, 46, 280305.
Bauman, A., & Phongsavan, P. (1999). Epidemiology of substance use in adolescence: Prevalence, trends and policy implications. Drug and Alcohol Dependency, 55, 187207.
Berndt, T. J., & Keefe, K. (1995). Friends' influence on adolescents' adjustment to school. Child Development, 66, 13121329.
Bierman, K. L. (2004). Peer rejection: Developmental processes and intervention strategies. New York: Guilford Press.
Blishen, B. R., Carroll, W. K., & Moore, C. (1987). The 1981 socioeconomic index for occupations in Canada. Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology, 24, 465488.
Boivin, M., Dodge, K. A., & Coie, J. D. (1995). Individual-group behavioral similarity and peer status in experimental play groups: The social misfit revisited. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69, 269279.
Boivin, M., Hymel, S., & Bukowski, W. M. (1995). The roles of social withdrawal, peer rejection, and victimization by peers in predicting loneliness and depressed mood in childhood. Development and Psychopathology, 7, 765785.
Boivin, M., Vitaro, F., & Poulin, F. (2005). Peer relationships and the development of aggressive behavior in early childhood. In R. E. Tremblay, W. W. Hartup, & J. Archer (Eds.), Developmental origins of aggression (pp. 376397). New York: Guilford Press.
Bot, S. M., Engels, R. C. M. E., & Knibbe, R. A. (2005). The effects of alcohol expectancies on drinking behaviour in peer groups: Observations in a naturalisting setting. Addiction, 100, 1270.
Brendgen, M., Vitaro, F., & Bukowski, W. M. (1998). Affiliation with delinquent friends: Contributions of parents, self-esteem, delinquent behavior, and peer rejection. Journal of Early Adolescence, 18, 244265.
Brendgen, M., Vitaro, F., & Bukowski, W. M. (2000). Stability and variability of adolescents' affiliation with delinquent friends: Predictors and consequences. Social Development, 9, 205225.
Broidy, L. M., Nagin, D. S., Tremblay, R. E., Bates, J. E., Brame, B., Dodge, K. A., et al. (2003). Developmental trajectories of childhood disruptive behaviors and adolescent delinquency: A six-site, cross-national study. Developmental Psychology, 39, 222245.
Buhrmester, D., & Furman, W. (1986). The changing functions of friends in childhood: A neo-sullivanian perspective. In V. J. Derlega & B. A. Winstead (Eds.), Friendship and social interaction (pp. 4162). New York: Springer–Verlag.
Bukowski, W. M., & Hoza, B. (1989). Popularity and friendship: Issues in theory, measurement, and outcome. In T. Berndt & G. Ladd (Eds.), Peer relationships in child development (pp. 1545). New York: Wiley.
Cairns, R. B., Cairns, B. D., Neckerman, H. J., Gest, S. D., & Gariépy, J.-L. (1988). Social networks and aggressive behavior: Peer support or peer rejection? Developmental Psychology, 24, 815823.
Caspi, A., Elder, G. H., & Bem, D. J. (1987). Moving against the world: Life-course patterns of explosive children. Developmental Psychology, 23, 308313.
Coie, J. D. (2004). The impact of negative social experiences on the development of antisocial behavior. In J. B. Kupersmidt & K. A. Dodge (Eds.), Children's peer relations (pp. 243267). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Coie, J. D., Dodge, K. A., & Coppotelli, H. (1992). Dimensions and types of social status: A cross-age perspective. Developmental Psychology, 18, 557570.
Coie, J. D., Terry, R., Abriski, A., & Lochman, J. (1995). Early adolescent social influences on delinquent behavior. In J. McCord (Ed.), Coercion and punishment in long-term perspectives (pp. 229244). New York: Cambridge University Press.
Criss, M. M., Pettit, G. S., Bates, J. E., Dodge, K. A., & Lapp, A. L. (2002). Family adversity, positive peer relationships, and children's externalizing behavior: A longitudinal perspective on risk and resilience. Child Development, 73, 12201237.
Deater-Deckard, K. (2001). Annotation: Recent research examining the role of peer relationships in the development of psychopathology. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 42, 565579.
Deptula, D. P., & Cohen, R. (2004). Aggressive, rejected, and delinquent children and adolescents: A comparison of their friendships. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 9, 75104.
DeRosier, M. E., Kupersmidt, J. B., & Patterson, C. J. (1994). Children's academic and behavioral adjustment as a function of the chronicity and proximity of peer rejection. Child Development, 65, 17991813.
DeRosier, M. E., & Thomas, J. M. (2003). Strengthening sociometric prediction: Scientific advances in the assessment of children's peer relations. Child Development, 75, 13791392.
Dishion, T. J., Andrews, D. W., & Crosby, L. (1995). Antisocial boys and their friends in early adolescence: Relationship characteristics, quality, and interactional processes. Child Development, 66, 139151.
Dishion, T. J., Capaldi, D., Spracklen, K. M., & Li, F. (1995). Peer ecology of male adolescent drug use. Development and Psychopathology, 7, 803824.
Dishion, T. J., Nelson, S. E., Winter, C. E., & Bullock, B. M. (2004). Adolescent friendship as a dynamic system: Entropy and deviance in the etiology and course of male antisocial behavior. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 32, 651663.
Dishion, T. J., Patterson, G. R., & Griesler, P. C. (1994). Peer adaptations in the development of antisocial behavior: A confluence model. In L. R. Huesmann (Ed.), Aggressive behavior: Current perspectives (pp. 6195). New York: Plenum Press.
Dishion, T. J., Patterson, G. R., Stoolmiller, M., & Skinner, M. L. (1991). Family, school, and behavioral antecedents to early adolescent involvement with antisocial peers. Developmental Psychology, 27, 172180.
Dishion, T. J., Spracklen, K. M., Andrews, D. W., & Patterson, G. R. (1996). Deviancy training in male adolescents' friendships. Behavior Therapy, 27, 373390.
Dobkin, P. L., Tremblay, R. E., Mâsse, L. C., & Vitaro, F. (1995). Individual and peer characteristics in predicting boys' early onset of substance abuse: A 7-year longitudinal study. Child Development, 66, 11981214.
Dodge, K. A., Lansford, J. E., Burks, V. S., Bates, J. E., Pettit, G. S., Fontaine, R., et al. (2003). Peer rejection and social information-processing factors in the development of aggressive behavior problems in children. Child Development, 74, 374393.
Dunn, J., & McGuire, S. (1992). Sibling and peer relationships in childhood. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines, 33, 67105.
Elliott, D. S., Huizinga, D., & Ageton, S. S. (1985). Explaining delinquency and drug use. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.
Ennett, S. T., & Bauman, K. E. (1994). The contribution of influence and selection to adolescent peer group homogeneity: The case of adolescent cigarette smoking. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 67, 653663.
Espelage, D. L., Holt, M. K., & Henkel, R. R. (2003). Examination of peer-group contextual effects on aggression during early adolescence. Child Development, 74, 205220.
Fergusson, D. M., Woodward, L. J., & Horwood, L. J. (1999). Childhood peer relationship problems and young people's involvement with deviant peers in adolescence. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 27, 357370.
Gottfredson, M. R., & Hirschi, T. (1990). A general theory of crime. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Hartup, W. W. (1983). Peer relations. In P. H. Mussen & E. M. Hetherington (Eds.), Handbook of child psychology: Vol. 4. Socialization, personality, and social development (4th ed.). New York: Wiley.
Hawkins, J. D., Catalano, R. F., & Miller, J. Y. (1992). Risk and protective factors for alcohol and other drug problems in adolescence and early adulthood: Implications for substance abuse prevention. Psychological Bulletin, 112, 64105.
Hay, D. F., Payne, A., & Chadwick, A. (2004). Peer relations in childhood. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 45, 84108.
Hindelang, M. J., Hirschi, T., & Weiss, J. (1981). Measuring delinquency. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.
Hu, L., & Bentler, P. M. (1999). Cutoff criteria for fit indexes in covariance structure analysis: Conventional criteria versus new alternatives. Structural Equation Modeling, 6, 155.
Hymel, S., Vaillancourt, T., McDougall, P., & Renshaw, P. D. (2002). Peer acceptance and rejection in childhood. In P. K. Smith & C. H. Hart (Eds.), Blackwell handbook of childhood social development (pp. 265284). Malden, MA: Blackwell.
Institut de la Statistique du Québec. (2003). Où en sont les jeunes face au tabac, à l'alcool, aux drogues et au jeu? Montreal: Gouvernement du Québec.
Johnston, L. D., O'Malley, P. M., & Bachman, J. G. (1999). Monitoring the future: National survey results on drug use, 1975–1999. Bethesda, MD: National Institute on Drug Abuse, US Department of Health and Human Services.
Kandel, D. B. (1985). On processes of peer influences in adolescent drug use: A developmental perspective. Alcohol and Substance Abuse in Adolescence, 4, 139163.
Kandel, D. B., & Davies, M. (1996). High school students who use crack and other drugs. Archives of General Psychiatry, 53, 7180.
Klein, M. W. (1989). Cross-national research in self-reported crime and delinquency. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic.
Kupersmidt, J. B., Burchinal, M., & Patterson, C. J. (1995). Developmental patterns of childhood peer relations as predictors of externalizing behavior problems. Development and Psychopathology, 7, 825843.
Kupersmidt, J. B., & Coie, J. D. (1990). Preadolescent peer status, aggression, and school adjustment as predictors of externalizing problems in adolescence. Child Development, 61, 13501362.
Lacourse, E., Côté, S., Nagin, D. S., Vitaro, F., Brendgen, M., & Tremblay, R. E. (2002). A longitudinal-experimental approach to testing theories of antisocial behavior development. Development and Psychopathology, 14, 909924.
Ladd, G. W., & Troop-Gordon, W. (2003). The role of chronic peer difficulties in the development of children's psychological adjustment problems. Child Development, 74, 13441367.
Laird, R. D., Jordan, K. Y., Dodge, K. A., Pettit, G. S., & Bates, J. E. (2001). Peer rejection in childhood, involvement with antisocial peers in early adolescence, and the development of externalizing behavior problems. Development and Psychopathology, 13, 337354.
LeBlanc, M., & Fréchette, M. (1989). Male criminal activity from childhood through youth: Multilevel and developmental perspective. New York: Springer–Verlag.
LeBlanc, M., & McDuff, P. (1991). Activités délictueuses, troubles de comportement et expérience familiale au cours de la latence [Delinquency, behavior problems and family dynamics during the latency period]. Unpublished manuscript, University of Montreal, School of Psycho-Education.
Luthar, S. S., & D'Avanzo, K. (1999). Contextual factors in substance use: A study of suburban and inner-city adolescents. Development and Psychopathology, 11, 845867.
Luthar, S. S., & McMahon, T. (1996). Peer reputation among adolescents: Use of the Revised Class Play with inner-city teens. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 6, 581603.
Mason, W. A., & Windle, M. (2002). Reciprocal relations between adolescent substance use and delinquency: A longitudinal latent variable analysis. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 111, 6376.
Miller-Johnson, S., Coie, J. D., Maumary-Gremaud, A., Bierman, K., & Conduct Problems Prevention Research Group. (2002). Peer rejection and aggression and early starter models of conduct disorder. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 30, 217230.
Muthén, L., & Muthén, B. O. (2004). MPlus users' guide (3rd ed.). Los Angeles: Author.
Nagin, D. S., & Tremblay, R. E. (1999). Trajectories of boys' physical aggression, opposition, and hyperactivity on the path to physically violent and nonviolent juvenile delinquency. Child Development, 70, 11811196.
Nelson, S. E., & Dishion, T. J. (2004). From boys to men: Predicting adult adaptation from middle childhood sociometric status. Development and Psychopathology, 16, 441459.
Observatoire Européen des Drogues et des Toxicomanies. (2000). Rapport annuel sur l'état du phénomène de la drogue dans l'Union européenne. Retrieved from
Parker, J. G., & Asher, S. R. (1993). Friendship and friendship quality in middle childhood: Links with peer group acceptance and feelings of loneliness and social dissatisfaction. Developmental Psychology, 29, 611621.
Patterson, G. R., Capaldi, D., & Bank, L. (1991). An early starter model for predicting delinquency. In D. J. Pepler & K. H. Rubin (Eds.), The development and treatment of childhood (pp. 139168). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Patterson, G. R., DeBaryshe, B. D., & Ramsey, E. (1989). A developmental perspective on antisocial behavior. American Psychologist, 44, 329335.
Prinstein, M. J., & Cillessen, A. H. N. (2003). Forms and functions of adolescent peer aggression associated with high levels of peer status. Merrill–Palmer Quarterly, 49, 310342.
Prinstein, M. J., Meade, C. S., & Cohen, G. L. (2003). Adolescent sexual behavior, peer popularity, and perceptions of best friends' sexual behavior. Journal of Pediatrics Psychology, 28, 243249.
Rubin, K. H., Bukowski, W., & Parker, J. G. (1998). Peer interactions, relationships, and groups. In W. Damon & N. Eisenberg (Eds.), Handbook of child psychology: Vol. 3. Social, emotional, and personality development (5th ed., pp. 610700). New York: Wiley.
Rubin, K. H., Moller, L., & Emptage, A. (1986). The Preschool Behavior Questionnaire: A useful index of behavior problems in elementary school-age children? Canadian Journal of Behavioral Sciences, 19, 86100.
Rutter, M. (1967). A children's behavior questionnaire for completion by teachers: Preliminary findings. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 8, 111.
Saunders, B., & Chambers, S. M. (1996). A review of the literature on attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder children: Peer interactions and collaborative learning. Psychology in the Schools, 33, 333340.
Snyder, J., Horsch, E., & Childe, J. (1997). Peer relationships of young children: Affiliative choices and the shaping of aggressive behavior. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 26, 145156.
Snyder, J., Prichard, J., Schrepferman, L., Patrick, M. R., & Stoolmiller, M. (2004). Child impulsiveness-inattention, early peer experiences, and the development of early onset conduct problems. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 32, 579594.
Snyder, J., Schrepferman, L., Oeser, J., Patterson, G., Stoolmiller, M., Johnson, K., & Snyder, A. (2005). Deviancy training and association with deviant peers in young children: Occurrence and contribution to early-onset conduct problems. Development and Psychopathology, 17, 397413.
Steinberg, L. (2002). Adolescence. Boston: McGraw–Hill.
Sullivan, H. S. (1953). The interpersonal theory of psychiatry. New York: Norton.
Tremblay, R. E., Loeber, R., Gagnon, C., Charlebois, P., Larivée, S., & LeBlanc, M. (1991). Disruptive boys with stable and unstable high fighting behavior patterns during junior elementary school. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 19, 285300.
Tremblay, R. E., Mâsse, L., Vitaro, F., & Dobkin, P. L. (1995). The impact of friends' deviant behavior on early onset of delinquency: Longitudinal data from 6 to 13 years of age. Development and Psychopathology, 7, 649667.
Tremblay, R. E., Vitaro, F., Gagnon, C., Piché, C., & Royer, N. (1992). A prosocial scale for the Preschool Behavior Questionnaire: Concurrent and predictive correlates. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 15, 227245.
Urberg, K. A., Luo, Q., Pilgrim, C., & Degirmencioglu, S. M. (2003). A two-stage model of peer influence in adolescent substance use: Individual and relationship-specific differences in susceptibility to influence. Addictive Behaviors, 28, 12431256.
van Lier, P. A. C., Vitaro, F., Wanner, B., Vuijk, P., & Crijnen, A. A. M. (2005). Gender differences in developmental links among antisocial behavior, friends' antisocial behavior, and peer rejection in childhood: Results from two cultures. Child Development, 76, 841855.
Vitaro, F., Brendgen, M., & Tremblay, R. E. (2002). Reactively and proactively aggressive children: Antecedent and subsequent characteristics. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 43, 495505.
Vitaro, F., Tremblay, R. E., & Bukowski, W. M. (2001). Friends, friendships, and conduct disorders. In J. Hill & B. Maughan (Eds.), Conduct disorder in childhood (pp. 346378). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Werner, N. E., & Crick, N. R. (2004). Maladaptive peer relationships and the development of relational and physical aggression during middle childhood. Social Development, 13, 495514.
White, J. L., Moffitt, T. E., Earls, F., Robins, L., & Silva, P. A. (1990). How early can we tell? Predictors of childhood conduct disorder and adolescent delinquency. Criminology, 28, 507533.
Wilks, J., Callan, V. J., & Austin, D. A. (1989). Parent, peer and personal determinants of adolescent drinking. British Journal of Addiction, 84, 619630.
Woodward, L. J., & Fergusson, D. M. (1999). Childhood, peer relationship problems and psychosocial adjustment in late adolescence. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 27, 87104.


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed