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Abstract

Background

This paper presents a test of the social development model which is a general theory of human behaviour that hypothesizes that similar developmental processes lead to either prosocial or antisocial outcomes. The model is a synthesis of social learning, social control and differential association theories. Earlier papers have examined the fit of the model during adolescence, but the model has not been tested in childhood.

Method

This paper examines the fit of a modified version of the model measuring social development constructs in the family in predicting early antisocial behaviour in primary school. The model is tested with data from the Raising Healthy Children project, a longitudinal study of the aetiology of positive and problem behaviour with an experimental intervention nested within the study.

Results

In the first analysis the prosocial path of the SDM was examined; the model fitted well, and explained 25% of the variance in early antisocial behaviour. However, the path between skills and rewards from the family was not significant, and a better fit was obtained when the model included two additional paths from skills to beliefs and skills to antisocial behaviour. In the second analysis the sample was split into two groups, those whose parents modelled problem behaviour and those who did not.

Conclusions

Two differences emerged between the two groups. First, the strength of the path between skills and problem behaviour was significantly stronger for children whose parents modelled problem behaviours. Second, the path between belief in family values and antisocial behaviours was not significant for children whose parents modelled problem behaviour. The implications for theory and practice are discussed. Copyright © 1999 Whurr Publishers Ltd.