Title

Do Adolescents Engage in Delinquency to Attract the Social Attention of Peers? An Extension and Longitudinal Test of the Social Reinforcement Hypothesis

Abstract

Although social-learning theory remains among the dominant perspectives in micro-level research concerning the causes of delinquency, research has yet to provide an adequate test of its social-reinforcement component using the methods required by the logic of operant psychology. The present article discusses the limits of existing attempts to test the social-reinforcement hypothesis, offers a new approach for testing it, and describes the use of panel data to provide such a test. In particular, the author examined (1) whether delinquency increases the amount of time a perpetrator's peers choose to spend with him or her, (2) whether such attention serves as a direct reinforcement prompting further delinquency from the perpetrator, and (3) whether such attention serves as a vicarious reinforcement prompting delinquency from audience members in proportion to their desire for informal socializing among peers. The results suggest support for vicarious, but not direct, social reinforcement.

Publication Date

11-2006

Journal Title

Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency

Publisher

Sage Publications

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

10.1177/0022427806291259

Document Type

Article

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