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The symbolic benefits of delinquency for adolescents

Resource type
Thesis type
((Thesis)/(Dissertation)) Ph.D.
Date created
The symbolism associated with delinquency can be very powerful. By engaging in delinquent behaviour, adolescents may be able to improve their social status by sending the message to their peers that they have highly valued characteristics such as bravery/nerve. I seek to expand our understanding of how the symbolism of delinquency contributes to the motivation for adolescent delinquent behaviour by presenting three studies that address various aspects of this relationship. These studies expand on prior research by integrating network analysis with situational analysis and by examining the criminogenic importance of differential association and symbolic interactionist perspectives within a network analysis framework. Overall, the studies show that delinquent motivation is often a product of a desire to enhance/maintain social status since delinquency symbolises valued characteristics. But only minor forms of delinquency (substance use) are found to benefit social status; more serious forms (violence) are detrimental. These symbolic incentives are particularly powerful when a) situation-specific supports for delinquency are most evident, and b) when the individual risks losing access to benefits from a delinquent peer group. It is clear that having an optimal position within the network is more important to adolescents than other forms of benefits.
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Scholarly level
Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Bouchard, Martin
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