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The Violent Years: Case of German teenagers

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Posted May 20, 2014

What are the most important causes of delinquent behavior among teenagers and how they change over time? Are aggressive actions caused by the influence of vicious friends? Or is it a consequence of social rules?

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Daniel Seddig from the University of Zürich explored sample representative of German adolescent population in order to deal with these questions. More precisely, he investigated how involvement in a brutal group, acceptance of violence norms and acts of aggression are interrelated.

The statistical analysis confirmed that belonging to a circle of fierce friends and acceptance of violence norms are related. A network of such individuals creates a social environment, where aggressive behavior is perceived as legitimate. As one could reasonably expect these two factors increase the probability of brutal action.

“However, during the end of adolescence there seems to be a developmental shift in the causation of violence that is indicated by an increase in the effect of peer group association and a (less clear) decrease in the effect of pro-violent norms,” Seddig elaborates. In addition, the study showed that acceptance of aggressiveness-norm and friendship with rough youngsters is more stable over time than delinquent behavior. “Violent behaviour is thus more dependent on its causal social antecedents than on violent behaviour at earlier points in time,” scientist says.

Seddig found that there exists the significant association between value orientation and various measures of deliquency. On the one hand, those teenagers, who endorse traditional values, do not accept pro-violent norms. On the other hand, the so called hedonistic values reinforce brutality. “For individuals prone to their short-term desires, an informal peer group focused on unsupervised and deviant activities might be a good framework for gratification,” the sociologist explains.

Such factors as gender and educational level are predictive of coercive conduct as well. Boys are more violent according to all measures than girls. Kids from better schools are less delinquent than their peers.

Somewhat surprisingly, the research revealed that children of the non-ethnic citizens are not more vehement than the ethnic Germans. Moreover, the scientist claims that the weak and low level significant effect of a migration context on violent behaviour even indicate that respondents of German origin are more involved in violent delinquency.

Article: Seddig D, 2014, Peer group association, the acceptance of norms and violent behaviour: A longitudinal analysis of reciprocal effects, European Journal of Criminology, 11: 319, source link.

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