The influence of delinquent peer affiliation on delinquency: the moderating effect of anxiety/depression
Social learning theory suggests that adolescents will be most likely to engage in delinquent behavior when they associate with other individuals who engage in, model, and think favorably of criminal behaviors. While the influence of delinquent peers is highly documented in criminological research (Pratt et al., 2010), less is known about the individual factors that moderate the delinquent peer effect, such as anxiety/depression. Integrating research on internalizing behaviors and peer delinquency effects, this study explains how internalizing behavioral problems in adolescence, specifically anxiety/depression, functions to moderate delinquent peer influences. This study expands research on peer influence by testing whether symptoms of anxiety/depression moderate the deleterious effects of delinquent peer influences. This study uses data from the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods (PHDCN) to examine the influence of delinquent peers on delinquency using multivariate generalized regression models. The use of these models allows for the test of moderation effects on alternative delinquent types including property crime, violent crime, and drug use. Results indicate that adolescents who endorsed more symptoms on the anxious/depressed scale exhibited weaker peer effects on drug use after controlling for confounding variables such as previous substance use and a family history of substance use. The interaction effects were non-significant for property crime and violent crime, both with and without control variables. This study addresses some critical questions about the relationship between the internalizing behaviors of anxiety/depression, peer delinquency, and three distinct delinquent behaviors, and initiates an important discourse regarding the moderating effects of internalizing behaviors on the influence of delinquent peers on subsequent delinquency.