DELINQUENCY AND THE STRUCTURE OF ADOLESCENT PEER GROUPS.
Gangs and group-level processes were once central phenomena for criminological theory and research. By the mid-1970's, however, gang research was primarily displaced by studies of individual behavior using randomized self-report surveys, a shift that also removed groups from the theoretical foreground. In this project, we return to the group level to test competing theoretical claims about delinquent group structure. We use network-based clustering methods to identify 897 friendship groups in two ninth grade cohorts of 27 Pennsylvania and Iowa schools. We then relate group-level measures of delinquency and drinking to network measures of group size, friendship reciprocity, transitivity, structural cohesion, stability, average popularity, and network centrality. We find significant negative correlations between group delinquency and all of our network measures, suggesting that delinquent groups are less solidary and less central to school networks than non-delinquent groups. Further analyses, however, reveal that these correlations are primarily explained by other group characteristics, such as gender composition and socioeconomic status. Drinking behaviors, on the other hand, show net positive associations with most of the network measures, suggesting that drinking groups have higher status and are more internally cohesive than non-drinking groups. Our findings shed light on a longstanding criminological debate by suggesting that any structural differences between delinquent and non-delinquent groups may be attributable to other attributes coincidental with delinquency. In contrast, drinking groups appear to provide peer contexts of greater social capital and cohesion.
Kreager, DA; Rulison, K; Moody, J
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