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Keywords:

  • adolescence;
  • delinquency;
  • peers/peer relations

Abstract

Positive association of relevant characteristics is a widespread pattern among adolescent friends. A positive association may be caused by the selection of similar others as friends and by the deselection of dissimilar ones, but also by influence processes where friends adjust their behavior to each other. Social control theory argues that adolescents select each other as friends based on delinquency. Differential association theory, on the other hand, argues that adolescent friends influence each other's delinquency levels. We employ new statistical methods for assessing the empirical evidence for either process while controlling for the other process. These methods are based on ‘actor-oriented’ stochastic simulation models. We analyze longitudinal data on friendship networks and delinquent behavior collected in four waves of 544 students in 21 first-grade classrooms of Dutch secondary schools. Results indicate that adolescents select others as friends who have a similar level of delinquency compared with their own level. Estimates of the social influence parameters are not significant. The results are consistent with social control theory but provide no support for differential association theory.