Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Degree

Master of Arts

Program

Psychology

Supervisor(s)

Dr. Alan Leschied

Abstract

The increasing influence of peers in adolescence is related to a developing array of skills, aspirations, attitudes, and behaviours. The nature and magnitude of this influence and the potential association of certain youth with deviant peers is among the most prominent risk factors in predicting youth crime. This becomes of greater concern for economically disadvantaged youth, whose neighbourhoods harbour greater susceptibility to negative peer influence. With social affiliations at the forefront of youth development and criminality, research efforts need to further characterize the nature, constitution, and influence of peers on adolescent offending. Two hundred and eighty-one Canadian youth were sampled from an urban-based court clinic who had been referred during the years 2010 to 2015. Information was drawn from case file content. Exploratory analyses were conducted to characterize relevant demographics, trends, and dispositions of youth according to their social networks, offending patterns, and socio-economic status. Experiences of poverty and negative peers were prevalent in this sample of young offenders. A negative peer environment was correlated with poverty, criminality, number of mental health diagnoses and symptoms. An interaction was found between offending pattern and level of antisocial behaviour. Post-hoc analysis revealed an additional interaction between gender and peer influence. Lastly, unique psychological correlates were identified according to friendship influence and friendship status. Findings point to the unique role of adolescent social patterns in both guiding and investigating the motives and struggles of young offenders. The relevance of the findings is discussed as they pertain to assessment, intervention, and future research.