, Volume 27, Issue 5, pp 357-369

Childhood Peer Relationship Problems and Young People's Involvement with Deviant Peers in Adolescence

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Using prospective longitudinal data from the Christchurch Health and Development Study, this article examined the relationship between children's peer relationship problems in middle childhood and their subsequent risk of forming deviant peer affiliations in adolescence. The analysis proceeded in three steps. First, a structural equation model demonstrated a moderate association between early peer relationship problems and later deviant peer affiliations (r = .27). Second, the model was extended to include a latent variable measure of early conduct problems. This analysis revealed that when the confounding effects of concurrently measured conduct problems were taken into account, peer relationship problems in middle childhood were no longer significantly related to young people's choice of deviant peers in adolescence. Third, the model was further extended to include lagged variables, permitting an examination of possible reciprocal relationships between early conduct problems and peer relationship problems. Results suggested that both early peer relationship problems and adolescent deviant peer involvement are symptomatic of early child behavioral adjustment. The implications of these findings for explanations of deviant peer selection are discussed.