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Peer relationship antecedents of delinquent behavior in late adolescence: Is there evidence of demographic group differences in developmental processes?

  • ROBERT D. LAIRD (a1), GREGORY S. PETTIT (a2), KENNETH A. DODGE (a3) and JOHN E. BATES (a4)
Abstract

A longitudinal prospective design was used to test the generalizability of low levels of social preference and high levels of antisocial peer involvement as risk factors for delinquent behavior problems to African American (AA) and European American (EA) boys and girls (N = 384). Social preference scores were computed from peer reports in middle childhood (ages 6–9). Parents and adolescents reported antisocial peer involvement in early adolescence (ages 13–16) and adolescents reported on their own delinquent behavior in late adolescence (ages 17 and 18). Analyses tested for differences across four groups (AA boys, EA boys, AA girls, EA girls) in construct measurement, mean levels, and associations among variables. Few measurement differences were found. Mean-level differences were found for social preference and delinquent behavior. AA boys were least accepted by peers and reported the highest level of delinquent behavior. EA girls were most accepted by peers and reported the lowest level of delinquent behavior. Associations among peer experiences and delinquent behavior were equivalent across groups, with lower levels of social preference and higher levels of antisocial peer involvement associated with more delinquent behavior. Person-centered analyses showed the risk associated with low social preference and high antisocial peer involvement to be similar across groups, providing further evidence of the generalizability of the peer relationship experiences as risk factors for subsequent delinquent behavior problems.This research was supported by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health (MH 42498, MH 57095) and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (HD 30572 to G.S.P., K.A.D., and J.E.B.). We are grateful to the Child Development Project families for their participation. Special thanks to Jennifer Burczyk–Brown for her help in managing the analyses and to Michael M. Criss for his comments on an early version of the manuscript. This article has been approved for publication by the Director of the Louisiana Agricultural Experiment Station (manuscript 03-36-104).

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Corresponding author
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Robert D. Laird, School of Human Ecology, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA 70803; E-mail: rlaird@agcenter.lsu.edu.
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