5 years ago

Reciprocal Associations between Delinquent Behavior and Social Network Position during Middle School

Carlos E. Santos, Laura D. Hanish, Naomi C. Z. Andrews


Delinquency and social standing are linked within middle school. Yet, theoretical explanations are generally unidirectional, and prevailing models are somewhat contradictory in terms of the directionality of the link between delinquency and social standing. The current study aimed to expand upon our current understanding of the social nature of delinquency by examining reciprocal associations between delinquency and social standing. We conceptualized social standing using two indices of social network position: social network prestige (how important or influential one is within the peer network) and social network centrality (how well-connected one is to peers in the network). We also assessed gender differences in associations. Ethnically diverse middle school students were followed longitudinally across one year (three waves; N = 516, M age  = 11.91 years at the first wave; 47% girls; 55% Latina/o). Participants reported on their delinquent behavior and nominated friends within their grade; friendship nominations were used to calculate social network prestige and centrality. Results indicated that both indicators of social network position were associated with increases in delinquency across school years, but not within the school year. Further, delinquency was associated with increases in social network prestige but not social network centrality (again, only across school years). Similarities across gender were found. The findings highlight the need to expand upon current, generally unidirectional theories of the social nature of delinquency, and suggest important differences between change within vs. across the school year.

Publisher URL: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10964-017-0643-2

DOI: 10.1007/s10964-017-0643-2

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