Skip to content

Conference Paper American Society of Criminology Annual Meeting

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


Publication date

18 Nov 1999


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.


Research home

Research home


Latest findings, new research

Publications search

Search all research by subject and author


Researchers discuss their findings and what they mean for society


Background and context, methods and data, aims and outputs


Conferences, seminars and workshops

Survey methodology

Specialist research, practice and study

Taking the long view

ISER's annual report


Key research themes and areas of interest