Developmental associations between externalizing behaviors, peer delinquency, drug use, perceived neighborhood crime, and violent behavior in urban communities

Aggress Behav. Jul-Aug 2011;37(4):349-61. doi: 10.1002/ab.20397. Epub 2011 May 4.


This study examines the precursors of violent behavior among urban, racial/ethnic minority adults. Data are from an on-going study of male and female African Americans and Puerto Ricans, interviewed at four time waves, Time 1-Time 4 (T1-T4), from adolescence to adulthood. Structural Equation Modeling was used to analyze the developmental pathways, beginning in mid-adolescence (T1; age = 14.0 years), to violent behavior in adulthood (T4; age = 29.2 years). The variables assessed were: components of externalizing behaviors (i.e., rebelliousness, delinquency; T1, T3); illicit drug use (T2); peer delinquency (T2); perceived neighborhood crime (T4); and violent behavior (T3, T4). Results showed that the participants' externalizing behaviors (rebelliousness and delinquency) were relatively stable from mid-adolescence (T1; age = 14.0 years) to early adulthood (T3; age = 24.4 years). The participants' externalizing behaviors in mid-adolescence also had a direct pathway to peer delinquency in late adolescence (T2; age = 19.1 years). Peer delinquency, in turn, had a direct pathway to the participants' illicit drug use in late adolescence (T2), and to externalizing behaviors in early adulthood (T3). The participants' illicit drug use (T2; age = 19.1 years) had both direct and indirect paths to violent behavior in adulthood (T4). The participants' externalizing behaviors in early adulthood (T3) were linked with violent behavior at T3, and perceived neighborhood crime (T4), both of which had direct pathways to violent behavior in adulthood (T4). The findings suggest developmental periods during which externalizing behaviors, exposure to delinquent peers, illegal drug use, and neighborhood crime could be targeted by prevention and intervention programs in order to reduce violent behavior.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • African Americans / psychology
  • Crime / ethnology
  • Crime / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Juvenile Delinquency / ethnology
  • Juvenile Delinquency / psychology*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • New York City
  • Peer Group
  • Puerto Rico / ethnology
  • Residence Characteristics
  • Substance-Related Disorders / ethnology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology*
  • Urban Population
  • Violence / ethnology
  • Violence / psychology*
  • Young Adult