JOURNAL ARTICLE

Affiliation with antisocial peers, susceptibility to peer influence, and antisocial behavior during the transition to adulthood

Kathryn C Monahan, Laurence Steinberg, Elizabeth Cauffman
Developmental Psychology 2009, 45 (6): 1520-30
19899911
Developmental theories suggest that affiliation with deviant peers and susceptibility to peer influence are important contributors to adolescent delinquency, but it is unclear how these variables impact antisocial behavior during the transition to adulthood, a period when most delinquent individuals decline in antisocial behavior. Using data from a longitudinal study of 1,354 antisocial youth, the present study examined how individual variation in exposure to deviant peers and resistance to peer influence affect antisocial behavior from middle adolescence into young adulthood (ages 14 to 22 years). Whereas we find evidence that antisocial individuals choose to affiliate with deviant peers, and that affiliating with deviant peers is associated with an individual's own delinquency, these complementary processes of selection and socialization operate in different developmental periods. In middle adolescence, both selection and socialization serve to make peers similar in antisocial behavior, but from ages 16 to 20 years, only socialization appears to be important. After age 20, the impact of peers on antisocial behavior disappears as individuals become increasingly resistant to peer influence, suggesting that the process of desistance from antisocial behavior may be tied to normative changes in peer relations that occur as individuals mature socially and emotionally.

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