3 years ago

Unstructured Socializing with Peers and Delinquent Behavior: A Genetically Informed Analysis

J. C. Barnes, Ryan C. Meldrum

Abstract

A large body of research finds that unstructured socializing with peers is positively associated with delinquency during adolescence. Yet, existing research has not ruled out the potential for confounding due to genetic factors and factors that can be traced to environments shared between siblings. To fill this void, the current study examines whether the association between unstructured socializing with peers and delinquent behavior remains when accounting for genetic factors, shared environmental influences, and a variety of non-shared environmental covariates. We do so by using data from the twin subsample of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (n = 1200 at wave 1 and 1103 at wave 2; 51% male; mean age at wave 1 = 15.63). Results from both cross-sectional and lagged models indicate the association between unstructured socializing with peers and delinquent behavior remains when controlling for both genetic and environmental influences. Supplementary analyses examining the association under different specifications offer additional, albeit qualified, evidence supportive of this finding. The study concludes with a discussion highlighting the importance of limiting free time with friends in the absence of authority figures as a strategy for reducing delinquency during adolescence.

Publisher URL: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10964-017-0680-x

DOI: 10.1007/s10964-017-0680-x

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