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13-08-2015 | Uitgave 3/2016 Open Access

Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 3/2016

Childhood Predictors and Adult Life Success of Adolescent Delinquency Abstainers

Research on Child and Adolescent Psychopathology > Uitgave 3/2016
N. Mercer, D. P. Farrington, M. M. Ttofi, L. Keijsers, S. Branje, W. Meeus


While much is known about adolescent delinquency, considerably less attention has been given to adolescent delinquency abstention. Understanding how or why some adolescents manage to abstain from delinquency during adolescence is informative for understanding and preventing adolescent (minor) delinquency. Using data from the Cambridge Study in Delinquent Development (N = 411 males) to compare abstainers, self-report delinquents and convicted delinquents we found five childhood factors (ages 8–10) that predicted adolescent abstention (ages 10–18). First, we find that adolescent abstainers possess characteristics opposite to those of convicted delinquents (namely, abstainers are high on honesty, conformity and family income). However, we also found that abstainers also share some childhood characteristics with convicted delinquents (namely, low popularity and low school achievement). A latent class analysis indicated that the mixed factors predicting abstention can be accounted for by two groups of abstainers: an adaptive group characterized by high honesty, and a maladaptive group characterized by low popularity and low school achievement. Further, validation of these two types of abstainers using data collected at age 48 suggested that adaptive abstainers outperform all other adolescents in general life success, whereas maladaptive abstainers only fare better than delinquent adolescents in terms of lower substance use and delinquency later in life.

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