Search

Research on short-term fluctuations in friendships and delinquency

A collaborative study by NSCR and the University of Cincinnati shows that a lot of change occurs in the student network and involvement among adolescents during the first ten weeks in high school. It appears that short term changes in offending are not necessarily related to friendships with delinquent others, but rather to the time that is spent with friends and the use of alcohol and marijuana. The results of this study are published in the Journal of Quantitative Criminology.

There is a large body of literature about the relation between peers and delinquency. However, much knowledge is based on research in which data were collected with relatively long time periods between measurement waves, usually one year. The article titled “The short-term dynamics of peers and delinquent behaviour” investigated, for the first time, how young people change in friendships and behaviour during a short period of time.

Data come from the Kentucky TEENS Study, that was conducted by researchers from the University of Cincinnati. All students who started in one high school in the state of Kentucky were followed for ten weeks following the beginning of the school year.  Every two weeks, students completed a questionnaire with the same items each time about which friends they had at the moment, their leisure time activities during the preceding period, and their involvement in various types of delinquency.

These data were employed to investigate a number of short term processes. First, changes in student networks and determinants of friendship choices were analysed. Second, it was investigated to which extent student adapted their behaviour towards the friends they had in the school network. Third, it was analysed to which extent fluctuations in delinquent behaviour coincided with fluctuations in activities with peers, in particular unstructured socializing and using alcohol and marijuana.

First and foremost, the results of the study reveal a remarkable amount of dynamics during the short period in which the study took place. Friendships among the investigated youths appeared to be volatile: each two weeks half of the friendship ties with the student networks were altered! Behaviour and activities were also unsteady: many participants changed their involvement in delinquent behaviour, and changed from using alcohol or marijuana to no use. Also the amount of time adolescents spent unstructured socializing (‘hanging around’) strongly fluctuated.

Friendship choices appeared to be largely determined by general processes that occur in social networks, like the tendency to make friends of friends, reciprocate friendships, and to make friends from the same gender as oneself. There was no clear preference to choose fellow students with similar amounts of criminal behaviour as friend, but the respondents did have a preference for fellow students with similar attitudes about crime and for fellow students with relatively delinquent attitudes.

Further, it appeared that students did not adapt their behaviour to that of their friends in the school network during the short period of time of the study. However, there were statistically significant relations between involvement in delinquency during a two week period and someone’s activities during the same period. Increasing or decreasing amounts of unstructured socializing with friends, and using or not using alcohol or marijuana was related to an increase or decrease in delinquent behaviour. Hanging out with friends appeared to be particularly related to changes in violence, while alcohol use was merely related to vandalism and property offenses.

Further reading
Weerman, Frank M., Pamela Wilcox, Christopher Sullivan (2017). The short-term dynamics of peers and delinquent behavior: An analysis of bi-weekly changes within a high school student network. Journal of Quantitative Criminology. Online before print, doi:10.1007/s10940-017-9340-2.

Credits image: Shutterstock

 

prof. dr. Frank Weerman

About prof. dr. Frank Weerman


Frank Weerman received his Masters degree in Sociology in 1992, with a specialisation in Criminology. In 1998, he received his PhD at the University of Groningen, for which he conducted an empirical study to test and expand Hirschi’s social control theory on juvenile delinquency. From 1998 until 2000, Weerman was affiliated as a postdoc researcher at the University of Twente, where he wrote a book about co-offending, criminal cooperation and group formation. He is affiliated with the NSCR since August 2000, currently in the position of senior researcher. His research interests are juvenile delinquency and criminological theory, with a focus on the role of peers in delinquent behaviour. Since 2002, he coordinated the “School Project”, a longitudinal study among secondary school students that included datacollection on changes in delinquency and social networks among the students. Under the umbrella of the international research network “Eurogang”, he published on troublesome youth groups and gangs. Since 2008, he is involved in the longitudinal Study of Peers, Activities and Neighbourhoods (SPAN).

Frank is a member of the Life-course Cluster, the Intergenerational Cluster, the Cybercrime Cluster and the Extremism/Terrorism Cluster.

View All Posts

2018

Asscher, J J; Dekovic, M; van den Akker, A L; Prins, P J M; van der Laan, P H

Do Extremely Violent Juveniles Respond Differently to Treatment? Journal Article

Int J Offender Ther Comp Criminol, 62 (4), pp. 958-977, 2018, ISSN: 1552-6933 (Electronic).

Links | BibTeX

van der Stouwe, T; Asscher, J J; Hoeve, M; van der Laan, P H; Gjjm, Stams

The Influence of Treatment Motivation on Outcomes of Social Skills Training for Juvenile Delinquents Journal Article

Int J Offender Ther Comp Criminol, 62 (1), pp. 108-128, 2018, ISSN: 1552-6933 (Electronic).

Links | BibTeX

2016

Asscher, J J; Dekovic, M; van den Aller, A L; Prins, P J M; van der Laan, P H

Do extremely violent juveniles respond differently to treatment? Journal Article

International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 2016.

Links | BibTeX

van der Stouwe, T; Asscher, J J; Hoeve, M; van der Laan, P H; Stams, G J J M

The influence of treatment motivation on outcomes of social skills training for juvenile delinquents Journal Article

International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 2016.

Links | BibTeX

van der Stouwe, T; Asscher, J J; Hoeve, M; van der Laan, P H; Stams, G J J M

Social skills training for juvenile delinquents: post-treatment changes Journal Article

Journal of Experimental Criminology, 2016.

Links | BibTeX

2015

James, C; Asscher, J J; Stams, G J J M; van der Laan, P H

The effectiveness of aftercare for juvenile and young adult offenders Journal Article

Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 2015.

Links | BibTeX

2013

James, C; Stams, G J J M; Asscher, J J; Roo, De A K; der Laan, Van P H

Aftercare programs for reducing recidivism among juvenile and young adult offenders: A meta-analytic review Journal Article

Clinical Psychology Review, 33 (2), pp. 263-274, 2013.

BibTeX

der Put, Van C E; Asscher, J J; Stams, G J J M; der Laan, Van P H; Breuk, R; Jongman, E; Doreleijers, T

Recidivism after treatment in a forensic youth-psychiatric setting: the effect of treatment characteristics Journal Article

International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 57 (9), pp. 1120-1139, 2013.

BibTeX

2007

Asscher, J J; Dekovic, M; van der Laan, P H; Prins, P J M; van Arum, S

Implementing randomized experiments in criminal justice settings : An evaluation of multi-systemic therapy in the Netherlands. Journal Article

Journal of Experimental Criminology, 3 (2), pp. 113-129, 2007.

BibTeX