Date of Award

Spring 2021

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation



First Advisor

Bethany Bell


Research suggests that most adolescent youth AY (AY) will engage in socially deviant behavior (SDB) beginning from ages 10-14, peak in rate of participation at 16-17, and begin to desist thereafter (ages 17 and older). AY participation in SDB varies by frequency and severity, ranging from minor acts such as smoking cigarettes to behaviors that threaten the safety of self and others. Most AY do not participate in SDB to harm, however, but instead are attempting to express autonomous function from parental and adult oversight. During adolescence, youth become aware of their physical transformation to adulthood and growing sense of self, yet they are simultaneously aware of the lack of autonomy afforded by parents and other social institutions within society. Thus, AY will participate in behavior that is deviant to what is expected them – a selfperceived act of independence and autonomous decision-making. Because research suggests that most AY will participate in SDB, and that the frequency and severity of behavior will change during the adolescent period, describing how and when AY transition among SDB types is important to understanding and limiting harm to self, others and the community.

Using a latent transition analysis and self-reported SDB indicators included within the, 1997 survey, this study describes how AY participate in SDB types differently, and how these types change by rate and severity across the adolescent development period. Specifically, this study introduces and tests a conceptual model based on developmental and life-course criminology theory and describes transitional patterns of SDB measured at four timepoints: beginning adolescence (12-13), early adolescence (13-15), mid-adolescence (15-17) and late adolescence (17-19). Patterns of SDB among AY are further investigated through stratification of sex, which is then evaluated in separate moderation models by race/ethnicity, peer networks, socioeconomic status, and fathers parenting style.

Results suggest that AY who participate in SDB can be categorized in one of four ways: : Minimal Deviant Behavior, Primarily Status Offense SDB, Moderate SDB, and Severe SBD, where members of Moderate and Severe statuses are most likely to participate in behaviors that victimize others. Although results indicated most AY were not involved in SDB during beginning adolescence, most AY participated in some form of SDB by late adolescence, where members of Moderate SDB were most likely to transition among statuses. When considering harm to self, others, and communities, AY were most likely to participate in SDB that victimized others at the highest rates and probability during early adolescence, and the least likely by late adolescence. The Minimal and Primarily Status Offense SDB groups maintained the highest proportion of AY across the development period, where only about 10% of AY participated in moderate and severe SDB by late adolescence. With the exception of White female AY, results suggest that AY participate in similar types and rates of SDB, regardless of sex or by race/ethnicity, peer networks, socioeconomic status, and father parenting style. White females, however, were more likely to participate in Moderate SDB during and after late adolescence as compared to other AY.


© 2021, Raymond B. Smith

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