Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 41, Issue 6, pp 691–703 | Cite as

Do Peers Matter in the Development of Self-Control? Evidence from a Longitudinal Study of Youth

Empirical Research


According to Gottfredson and Hirschi’s self-control theory, child and adolescent variation in self-control results primarily from variations in parental socialization. Although much research reveals a link between parenting and self-control, many recent studies indicate that the etiology of self-control is more complex than what has been theoretically specified. In further considering this issue, the current study first presents a theoretical model that emphasizes the role that peers may play in the development of self-control, even when accounting for the influence of parents. Next, we empirically assess the extent to which peer behavior influences self-control during childhood. The data come from a sample of U.S. families (n = 776); 48% of the subjects are male, their age was 9 years, and non-Hispanic whites represented 84% of the sample. The analysis revealed that peer behavior is significantly associated with subsequent self-control, even after accounting for differences in parental socialization, prior self-control, and other potential sources of spuriousness. The implications of the findings for theory and future research are discussed.


Self-control Peers General theory of crime Childhood Adolescence 



All correspondence can be sent to Dr. Ryan Meldrum by e-mail to or by mail to Dr. Ryan Meldrum, Department of Criminal Justice, Florida International University, Miami, FL 33199. The Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development (SECCYD) was conducted by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Early Child Care Research Network, supported by NICHD through a cooperative agreement that calls for scientific collaboration between the grantees and the NICHD staff. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development or the National Institutes of Health. (United States Department of Health and Human Services. National Institutes of Health. Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development: Phases I–IV, 1991–2008 [United States] [Computer files]. ICPSR21940-v1; ICPSR21941-v1; ICPSR21942-v1; ICPSR22361-v1. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor]).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Criminal JusticeFlorida International UniversityMiamiUSA
  2. 2.College of Criminology and Criminal JusticeFlorida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA

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