Delinquency and peer acceptance in adolescence: a within-person test of Moffitt's hypotheses

Dev Psychol. 2014 Nov;50(11):2437-48. doi: 10.1037/a0037966. Epub 2014 Sep 22.


We tested 2 hypotheses derived from Moffitt's (1993) taxonomic theory of antisocial behavior, both of which are central to her explanation for the rise in delinquency during adolescence. We tested whether persistently delinquent individuals become more accepted by their peers during adolescence and whether individuals who abstain from delinquent behavior become less accepted. Participants were 4,359 adolescents from 14 communities in the PROSPER study, which assessed friendship networks and delinquency from 6th (M = 11.8 years) to 9th (M = 15.3 years) grade. We operationalized peer acceptance as number of nominations received (indegree centrality), attractiveness as a friend (adjusted indegree centrality), and network bridging potential (betweenness centrality) and tested the hypotheses with multilevel modeling. Contrary to Moffitt's hypothesis, persistently delinquent youths did not become more accepted between early and middle adolescence, and although abstainers were less accepted in early adolescence, they became more accepted over time. Results were similar for boys and girls; when differences occurred, they provided no support for Moffitt's hypotheses for boys and were opposite of her hypotheses for girls. Sensitivity analyses in which alternative strategies and additional data were used to identify persistently delinquent adolescents produced similar results. We explore the implications of these results for Moffitt's assertions that social mimicry of persistently antisocial adolescents leads to increases in delinquency and that social isolation leads to abstention. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved).

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology*
  • Adolescent Development
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / psychology
  • Female
  • Friends / psychology
  • Humans
  • Juvenile Delinquency / psychology*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Models, Psychological
  • Peer Group*
  • Self Report
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Sex Characteristics