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Conference Paper American Society of Criminology Annual Meeting

Structure Versus Process in Adolescent Risk-Taking Behavior: examining data from Canada and the US

Authors

Publication date

18 Nov 1999

Abstract

This research presents an empirical examination of Sampson and Laub's social control theory in a comparative Canada-US framework. It tests the effects of family structure, family attachment, school attachment and peer attachment on a composite measure of adolescent risk-taking behavior which includes delinquency, drug use and other forms of misconduct.
The data come from two sources. The first source is a combined sample of high school students from the Ontario Student Drug Use Surveys (Addiction Research Foundation) 1993 and 1995 (n=3,500). The second source is the first wave of the US National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (n=6,000). The data are analysed in a series of nested regression models and structural equations. The findings provide corroboration for the social control perspective advanced by Sampson and Laub (and others). The effects of structural variables on risk-taking are mediated by family, school and peer process variables. In addition, the effect of family attachment is moderated by both peer and school attachment in the Ontario sample and by school attachment in the US sample. When family attachment is low, school attachment inhibits risk-taking and peer attachment reinforces it. While significant differences across the two samples are identified, these may be due to peculiarities in national/racial/regional variations. The results however are generally consistent with those of Sampson and Laub and provide encouraging corroboration for their explanation of adolescent risk-taking.

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