Article Research Essay - "Reconsidering Peers and Delinquency: How do Peers Matter?" essay sample

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Article Research Essay

The authors investigate the correlation between peer relations and delinquency. They recur to sociological tradition in order to regard the problem from two different perspectives, which are the normative behavior and the opportunity approach. The researchers use detailed data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health and on their basis provide support for both considered models – the socialization and the opportunity one. Referring to previous studies on this issue, the scientists exemplify whether the adolescents appear to be more involved in delinquency rates both when they communicate with delinquent peers or spent time in a socially unstructured environment.

Results on overall effects of peer relations. Within their primary hypotheses the authors of the article regard peers as a source of normative influence. The authors assess the normative influence by the impact of the delinquency of the friends of the respondents’. This effect appeared to be statistically significant both after controlling potential causes of delinquency and after controlling for contemporaneous degree of delinquency. Therefore, the authors conclude that peer socialization has a consequential causal influence on delinquency. This is contrary to previous claims that this social position is entirely determinable to respondents choosing friends similar to themselves. Additionally, the findings of the research demonstrate that most previous studies have considerably overestimated normative influence by concluding on respondent’s answers about their friends and by failing the control for the processes of selection. Such studies typically suggest that peer delinquency is an exceptionally important prognosticator of delinquency, which dominate over social impacts on delinquency with a standardized effect of about .5. In contrast, the authors of the research state for the standardized effect of friends’ delinquency is an upper bound of .14 and a lower bound of .05. Thus, it is concluded that normative influence is no more important to delinquency than are other established predictors, such as sex, religion, attachment to parents, grade point average, number of friends etc.

Results on peers as a source of opportunity. The authors’ second theoretical perspective focuses on interpersonal relations regarded as potential source of opportunities for deviance. The latter is measured by time spent in unstructured socializing. The key question about this perspective is whether the unstructured socializing is a specious consequence of the influence of delinquent friends. The authors make conclusion that this is not the case, as the magnitude of the impact of unstructured socializing is comparable to the effect of normative influence, as well as to the effects of relations with parents and school and other aspects. Results on interactive effects of peer relations. The third research perspective considers the findings concerning the interactive effects of the peer dimensions within delinquency. The authors found no evidence that the effect of friends’ delinquency is more significant either when respondents feel closely connected to their friends or when they spend more time in unstructured socializing with them. For socialization theory the main conclusion is that the degree of normative influence is relatively independent of other dimensions of peer relationships.

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