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01-09-2010 | Empirical Research | Uitgave 9/2010

Journal of Youth and Adolescence 9/2010

Behavioral Stability as an Emergent Process: Toward a Coherence Theory of Concentrated Personal Disadvantage

Journal of Youth and Adolescence > Uitgave 9/2010
John Paul Wright, Kevin M. Beaver, Chris L. Gibson


The best predictor of future misbehavior is a history of aberrant and wayward conduct. Even so, few theories attempt to account for time-stable maladaptive pathways. To this end, we advance a theory of stability, what we term Coherence Theory. Coherence Theory conceptualizes stability as an emergent property that occurs when antisocial dispositions, social consequences, and misconduct coalesce within an individual. In this sense, misconduct is viewed as only one component of a larger, overarching and multi-faceted emergent construct we label as “concentrated personal disadvantage.” When these three components coalesce within an individual, temporal stability in maladaptive pathways should be expected. Using nationally representative, longitudinal data from the National Survey of Children, we test specific hypotheses derived from our theory. This study makes use of the first and second waves of survey data (N wave 1 = 2,301; N wave 2 = 1,423). The sample overall was 51% male and 52% white. Our analyses provide tentative support for the proposed theory. Concentrated personal disadvantage was found to emerge when the identified constellation of variables coalesced in individuals, and was found to be relatively stable over a 5 year period for males and females. Coherence Theory challenges traditional theories on the stability of antisocial pathways, offers specific conditions under which high levels of stability are likely, and explains why disruption off of antisocial pathways is so difficult.

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