How Much Variance in Offending, Self-Control and Morality can be Explained by Neighbourhoods and Schools? An Exploratory Cross-Classified Multi-Level Analysis

Abstract

Criminological studies of contextual effects on adolescent offending have focused either on residential areas (considering effects of characteristics like disadvantage and collective efficacy) or on school characteristics (studying effects of organisation and social climate, for example). However, adolescents are simultaneously exposed to multiple contexts, and the influence of these contexts on their lives should be studied simultaneously rather than separately. The principal subject of this contribution lies in analysing to which extent there is unique neighbourhood level variation and unique school level variation in adolescent offending, and in two major and stable correlates of adolescent offending, morality and low self-control. Data are used from the Study of Peers, Activities and Neighbourhoods (SPAN), with 612 adolescents in various schools and neighbourhoods in the Netherlands. The results show that there is no unique neighbourhood level variance anymore after controlling for unique school level variance, while some variation at the school level still remains with regard to self-control and morality.

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Acknowledgments

We thank Per-Olof Wikström for sharing the questionnaire and the space-time budget interview that were developed in the Peterborough Adolescent and Young Adult Development Study (PADS+), Beth Hardie and Caroline Moul for training our interview staff, and Kirsten Grandia, Evelien Hoeben and Lieneke Spel for coordinating the data collection.

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Correspondence to Lieven J. R. Pauwels.

Appendix

Appendix

A note on the Dutch school system

A short description of the school system in the Netherlands may be useful (the following is based on Van der Velden et al., 2014). In the Netherlands, children attend primary education between the age of 4 and 12. At the age of 12, pupils enter secondary education, which is highly stratified. Three main tracks are distinguished: pre-university education (VWO), higher general secondary education or the pre-college track (HAVO), and pre-vocational education (VMBO). Within VMBO several sub tracks are distinguished that differ in theoretical and practical orientation. Apart from these three tracks, students that do not have enough cognitive of behavioural capacities to attend normal second education, can follow special forms of education. One type of school they may be placed in, are school for practical education, which are focused on acquiring basic practical and social skills. The transition to post-secondary education (intermediate vocational education, vocational colleges and universities) takes place at between age 16 and 18, depending on which secondary education track the student followed.

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Pauwels, L.J.R., Weerman, F.M., Bruinsma, G.J.N. et al. How Much Variance in Offending, Self-Control and Morality can be Explained by Neighbourhoods and Schools? An Exploratory Cross-Classified Multi-Level Analysis. Eur J Crim Policy Res 21, 523–537 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10610-014-9262-6

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Keywords

  • Adolescent offending
  • Contextual effects
  • Multilevel analysis
  • Neighbourhoods
  • Schools
  • Social ecology
  • Variance components