Pubertal Development, Spare Time Activities, and Adolescent Delinquency: Testing the Contextual Amplification Hypothesis
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Extensive evidence supports associations between early pubertal timing and adolescent externalizing behavior, but how and under which conditions they are linked is not fully understood. In addition, pubertal development is also characterized by variations in the relative speed at which individuals mature, but studies linking pubertal ‘tempo’ and outcomes are scarce. This study examined the mediating and moderating roles of spare time activities in associations between pubertal development and later delinquency, using data from a large (4,327 girls, 4,250 boys) longitudinal UK cohort (Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children). Self-reports of Tanner stage were available from ages 9 to 14, spare time activities at age 12 and delinquency at age 15. Pubertal development was examined using latent growth models. Spare time activities were categorized using factor analyses, yielding four types (hanging out at home, hanging out outside, consumerist behavior, and sports/games), which were examined as mediators and moderators. Earlier and faster maturation predicted delinquency in boys and girls. Spare time activities partially mediated these links such that early maturing girls more often engaged in hanging out outside, which placed them at greater risk for delinquency. In addition, compared to their later and slower maturing counterparts, boys who matured earlier and faster were less likely to engage in sports/games, a spare time activity type that is linked to lower delinquency risk. No moderation effects were found. The findings extend previous research on outcomes of early maturation and show how spare time activities act as proxies between pubertal development and delinquency.
KeywordsPubertal development Delinquency Latent growth model ALSPAC
We are extremely grateful to all the families who took part in this study, the midwives for their help in recruiting them, and the whole ALSPAC team, which includes interviewers, computer and laboratory technicians, clerical workers, research scientists, volunteers, managers, receptionists and nurses. The UK Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust (Grant ref: 092731) and the University of Bristol provide core support for ALSPAC. This publication is the work of the authors who will serve as guarantors for the contents of this paper. This research was specifically funded by a grant to BM from the UK Medical Research Council (MRC G0500953).
TK conceived of the study, conducted all statistical analyses and prepared a draft of the manuscript. BRO advised throughout the data analytic process and provided extensive comments on versions of the manuscript. BM conceived of the study and provided extensive comments on versions of this manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
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