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01-07-2007 | Original Paper | Uitgave 5/2007

Journal of Youth and Adolescence 5/2007

The Tangled Web: Delinquency, Deception, and Parental Attachment

Journal of Youth and Adolescence > Uitgave 5/2007
Mark Warr
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Mark Warr is Professor and Graduate Chair in the Department of Sociology, University of Texas at Austin. He has published extensively on the group nature of delinquency and the role of peer influence in delinquent events. His book Companions in Crime: The Social Aspects of Criminal Conduct (Cambridge University Press, 2002) received the 2005 Michael J. Hindelang Award from the American Society of Criminology.


Delinquent youth display weaker attachment to their parents than do other youth, but the reasons for this remain unclear. One explanation is that delinquent youth poison their relations with parents by lying to them about their friends, behavior, whereabouts, and more. Analysis of data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health reveals that lying to parents is an exceptionally strong and robust correlate of delinquent behavior, and is associated with a variety of surreptitious behaviors – late bedtimes, hanging with friends, concealing whereabouts. Lying to parents appears to have a progressively negative impact on the parent-child bond, meaning that the well-established attachment/delinquency association is not solely a parent effect. Youth who lie to their parents do not appear to do so blithely, however. Compared to other youth, they hold themselves in lower regard and are more often depressed. Although parents are often angered by and distrustful of deceitful children, their children's fabrications may say less about their regard for their parents than about the strength of other loyalties.

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