Antisocial peer affiliation and externalizing disorders in the transition from adolescence to young adulthood: Selection versus socialization effects

Diana R Samek, Rebecca J Goodman, Stephen A Erath, Matt McGue, William G Iacono
Developmental Psychology 2016, 52 (5): 813-23
Prior research has demonstrated both socialization and selection effects for the relationship between antisocial peer affiliation and externalizing problems in adolescence. Less research has evaluated such effects postadolescence. In this study, a cross-lagged panel analysis was used to evaluate the extent of socialization (i.e., the effect of antisocial peer affiliation on subsequent externalizing disorders) and selection (i.e., the effect of externalizing disorders on subsequent antisocial peer affiliation) in the prospective relationships between antisocial peer affiliation and externalizing disorders from adolescence through young adulthood. Data from a community sample of 2,769 individuals (52% female) with assessments at ages 17, 20, 24, and 29 were used. Analyses with a latent externalizing measure (estimated using clinical symptom counts of nicotine dependence, alcohol use disorder, illicit drug use disorder, and adult antisocial behavior) and self-reported antisocial peer affiliation revealed significantly stronger socialization effects from age 17 to 20, followed by significantly stronger selection effects from age 20 to 24 and 24 to 29. To better understand the impact of college experience, moderation by college status was evaluated at each developmental transition. Results were generally consistent for those who were in or were not in college. Results suggest selection effects are more important in later developmental periods than earlier periods, particularly in relation to an overall liability toward externalizing disorders, likely due to more freedom in peer selection postadolescence. (PsycINFO Database Record

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