The relation between adolescent social competence and young adult delinquency and educational attainment among at-risk youth: the mediating role of peer delinquency

Stephanie D Stepp, Dustin A Pardini, Rolf Loeber, Nancy A Morris
Canadian Journal of Psychiatry. Revue Canadienne de Psychiatrie 2011, 56 (8): 457-65

OBJECTIVE: We examined trajectories of adolescent social competence as a resilience factor among at-risk youth. To examine potential mechanisms of this resilience process, we investigated the putative mediating effect of peer delinquency on the relation between adolescent social competence and young adult delinquency seriousness and educational attainment.

METHOD: Participants (n = 257) were screened to be at risk for antisocial behaviour at age 13 years. Data were derived from an ongoing longitudinal study of the development of antisocial and delinquent behaviour among inner-city boys, the Pittsburgh Youth Study. We used data collected from participants when aged 13 years until they were aged 25.5 years for our study.

RESULTS: Results indicated that boys with high levels of social competence decreased their involvement with deviant peers throughout adolescence, which, in turn, predicted less serious forms of delinquency in early adulthood. Social competence had a direct effect on educational attainment in early adulthood, as boys who developed social competencies in adolescence went further in school irrespective of their involvement with delinquent peers.

CONCLUSIONS: Results suggest that promoting the development of social competencies and reducing involvement with delinquent peers will protect at-risk youth from engaging in serious delinquency in early adulthood while increasing their educational success.

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